Today, the European Commission has unveiled its “Zero Pollution” proposals to cut air pollution limits in half from 2030 with more stringent air quality measures. Green MEPs Ciarán Cuffe and Grace O’Sullivan have expressed dismay that the proposed increase in EU standards for air and water quality still falls short of international standards set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Ciarán Cuffe, Green MEP for Dublin, said;
“Air pollution causes hundreds of thousands of premature deaths in the European Union every year: it is one of the biggest environmental threats to human health. Nearly 100% of the urban population in the EU lives with poor air quality and in parts of Dublin with heavy traffic, pollution is well above the WHO guidelines and often affects the most deprived areas. We must aspire to be better when we know that this pollution actively threatens the lives of thousands. The EU is one of the most developed regions in the world: we should be setting the standards, not planning to fail to meet them.”
Grace O’Sullivan, MEP for Ireland South, said;
“People have started to take matters into their own hands, with groups in Belgium and Germany for example taking their own governments to court over bad air quality. If we don’t take action, we could see the same in Ireland. Powerful car manufacturing lobbies in Brussels are making a serious effort to weaken measures like this, and we need to push back on them if we are to take the issue of poor air quality seriously. In a battle between people and big car corporations, our health and basic wellbeing is at stake. It is now up to us as MEPs to strengthen the proposals and make up for the Commission’s lack of ambition.”
The EU has already set air quality standards under the Ambient Air Quality Directives. Under these laws, EU countries must make sure that air quality is in line with those standards. However, these rules are not good enough: the WHO sets the best practice standard of air quality, and EU rules are not aligned with these WHO recommendations. Today’s announcement was a chance to finally align EU standards with these recommendations, which the Greens have been campaigning on for years. However, it failed to do so.