Fithing Air Pollution in Europe

Ramping Up Efforts for a Healthier Environment

Air pollution has massive negative consequences on human health, ecosystems and crop yields. According to a report from the European Environment Agency (EEA), it was the cause of over 450 000 premature deaths in the EU in 2016. The European Commission estimates the welfare cost of ill-health linked to poor air quality in the EU to range between €330 billion to €940 billion per year. It is thus paramount that the EU and the Member States increase their effort to fight air pollution and ensure cleaner air for present and future generations.   

In 2016, the European Parliament and the Council adopted the revised National Emission Ceiling (NEC) Directive, which set targets for 2020 and 2030 and broadened its scope to include PM2.5. In the same year, the EU Ministers Responsible for Urban Matters agreed to establish The Urban Agenda for the EU - Partnership for Air Quality, whose aim is to join efforts by the European Commission, the Member States, local authorities and other relevant stakeholders to focus on four concrete topics related to air pollution until mid-2017. Finally, in February 2017, the Commission published a first EU Environmental Implementation Review with the objective of improving compliance with the EU legal framework on air pollution. The review stresses the need for a new approach to mobility, as transport is currently the main source of EU air quality problems.

Wealth loss due to premature deaths from air pollution is projected to more than double in European OECD countries by 2060. According to the EEA, further progress in the reduction of pollutants beyond 2030 is likely to be slow, and the EU would thus risk not achieving its long-term air quality goals. Although the EU has reduced the levels of all main pollutants over recent decades, the Environmental Review highlighted that a number of Member States exceed the emission targets for NOx, NMVOCs or NH3 and the aerial concentration limit of various pollutants, especially in high-traffic urban areas. In this context, technology may play a crucial role, allowing innovation in key areas such as transport of goods and people, eco-friendly raw materials, air pollution control systems and clean energy production. Furthermore, the implementation of appropriate fiscal measures, funding schemes and coordination strategies would facilitate the transition towards a clean socioeconomic system.


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