A few weeks ago, the new European air quality directive was adopted by the European Parliament. The text approved by the Plenary addresses several of the requirements that European and Spanish civil society have been advocating for to combat air pollution. Initially, the deadline for implementing the measures outlined in the document was set for 2030, as proposed by the European Commission. However, after final negotiations before the vote, the deadline was extended by five years to 2035.
Now, following the parliamentary process, the text requires negotiation among three organisations of the European Union (the Commission, the Parliament, and the Council) before receiving the final approval. The Environment Council of the EU is currently underway, attended by EU ministers. 19 social, health, and environmental organisations have requested that Teresa Ribera, the Minister for Ecological Transition, ensure that the new regulations maintain their ambitions. Furthermore, they have called for the reintroduction of the 2030 date, as initially proposed by the European Commission.
In a letter addressed to Ribera, the organisations emphasise the significance of “achieving the 2030 targets” and emphasise that “every year of delay increases the likelihood of hundreds of thousands of premature deaths from dementia, cancer, asthma, COPD, stroke, and other cardiovascular conditions”.
One of the primary concerns for entities during the negotiation period, could be potentially relaxing other measures outlined in the document. Therefore, they request Teresa Ribera’s agreement “to implement the new directive without any flexibility or slackness that would delay or diminish compliance with the regulation”. They are insisting that the approval must be hastened before the European elections in June next year to avert “the premature death of hundreds of thousands of people and safeguard the most vulnerable groups such as children, expectant mothers, senior citizens or those with chronic illnesses who need cleaner and healthier air”.
The European Parliament’s adopted text incorporates air pollution limits that align with the latest scientific studies and WHO recommendations updated in 2021. These limits will be obligatory for all Member States. Additionally, the text aims to provide greater protection for children and other vulnerable populations whilst ensuring better access to information on air quality for citizens. However, the organisations contend that these improvements will not materialise “without implementing plans at various government levels” making necessary alterations to curb environmental pollution levels.
Finally, the entities emphasise in the letter that with 300,000 deaths per year in Europe that could be linked to the low quality of the air we breathe; it is necessary to “prioritise” this issue. They consider this new directive as “one of the most important opportunities to enhance the health and well-being of people living in Europe, but also, this directive will reduce the effects of climate change and secure the sustainability of urban environments.”