Pollution is the largest health inequality in Europe and is one of EFA’s main concerns, as airways diseases patients are particularly affected by dirty air. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 3 million deaths a year are linked to air pollution.  64 to 98% of the European population are exposed to pollution levels that are above WHO air quality guidelines and about 30% above EU limits.

This is why the European Commission have been opening infringement proceedings to pressure national members’ states to adjust to EU legal limits on air quality and to adopt stronger measures. So much so that nine EU countries are susceptible to be sent to the European Court of Justice for violating clean air rules.  Big countries such as France, Italy, Spain, UK and Germany are some of the threatened ones.

In this sense, Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella reminded - following the environment summit that took place at the 30th January - that 400 000 people die prematurely every year because of “a massive, widespread failure to address the problem”. “Many more suffer unnecessarily from air quality related diseases.” Vella stressed.

That is why in EFA we again express concern about one of the latest agreement on Air quality. While on one hand, the European Commission wants to show a firm hand against countries not accomplishing EU air pollution limits; on the other hand the level of exigence demanded to member states to cut their pollutant emissions decreased in the very last moment of 2017.The 21st December, Member states and the European Parliament met and agreed to cut emissions by 30% by 2030 from transport, buildings, waste and agriculture sector while Juncker’s Commission objective was already set to be 40% by 2030 instead.

In Commissioner Vella words, despite the fact that “deadlines have long been elapsed” and that we “have already waited long”, more flexibility have been given to Member states to reach the targets they already have been long failing to achieve.

In the framework of the European Commission’s 2018 Work Programme publication, which didn’t establish air pollution as one of its priorities, is added the question mark regarding new Bulgarian presidency. Bulgaria, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council for the first half of 2018, has the highest death rate related to air pollution in the bloc.

Even it seems that the EC is trying to foster cooperation between different levels of government through its so-called Clean Air Dialogue (bringing officials together to discuss possible measures) and launching some reviews of its air quality law, the option of being flexible with Member States on deadlines to accomplish EU pollution reduction objectives could be counterproductive.

Learn more about EFA’s activities on air quality