Opinion factsheet

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    REVIEW OF EU AIR QUALITY AND EMISSIONS POLICY

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    : CDR 329/2011
    : LAMERS, Cor
    : EPP (European People's Party)
    : ENVE
    : Adopted
    : 03/05/2012
    to feed into the preparations of the European Commission of its review of EU Air Policy due beginning of 2013 the concerns of the EU's local and regional authorities
    to promote an ambitious EU policy an air emissions that is consistent with the EU air quality obligations for local and regional authorities
    the key question in reviewing EU air quality policy must be how EU legislation can effect improvements in air quality (i.e. using what type of legislation and which measures). At least the following aspects are important: multilevel governance, an integrated approach, and the practical implementation of EU legislation in Europe's cities. Priority must be given to the workability of the EU directive and problems of implementation in cities and regions.
    air pollution causes the greatest problems and hotspots in conurbations. Despite extensive efforts, many European cities and regions will not be able to meet the standards for PM10, PM2.5 and NO2 on time. The main reasons for this is twofold:
    a) the slowdown in improvements to air quality is, to a significant extent, due to a lack of ambition in EU source-based policy and an absence of national measures. Too much of the burden and responsibility of solving the problems has been placed on local and regional authorities;
    b) Local and regional authorities face three types of obstacle to deal with air pollution: limited influence, limited options, and limited policy freedom. local and regional authorities are dependent on source-based measures at national and international level to reduce emissions and thereby help to substantially reduce background concentrations.
    Public health must be the starting point for revising the air quality directives. Improving public health will require a higher level of ambition. However, the Committee should insists in this regard that the ambitiousness of the revised directive must be carefully aligned with that of the national emission ceilings and EU emissions policy (source-based policy). In this connection, the combining the NEC directive with the air quality directives would encourage the harmonisation of the various levels of ambition. The EU's immissions and emissions policies must be linked to each other, at least with regard to the following aspects:
    a) the level of ambition shown in EU source-based policy must be aligned with that in the new Air Quality Directive;
    b) the timeframes for emissions and immissions policies must match up with each other;
    From the perspective of public health and scientific research, and of better regulation it would be possible to reduce the number of substances and the number of target and limit values. This could be achieved by focusing on the most polluting substances and on those indicators that best reflect the health aspects. The indicators used for traffic-related pollution should be those that best reflect the health aspects.
    The current directive provides standards for PM10, PM2.5 and NO2, but it has now become clear that elemental carbon /black carbon (EC/BC) seems to be a better indicator for the components of air pollution that impact public health. The forthcoming review of the air quality directives can be seen as an opportunity to move from standards for PM10, PM2.5 and NO2 to a standard for EC/BC, subject to research showing that such a standard is indeed a more appropriate indicator.
    The Outlook Opinion has substantially increased the profile, inter institutional role and visibility of the CoR in the field, in particular:
    The Opinion allowed the CoR to feed at an early stage the concerns of the EU's local and regional authorities into the preparations of the European Commission of its review of EU Air Policy due in 2013, aimed at promoting an ambitious EU policy an air emissions that is consistent with the EU air quality obligations for local and regional authorities; first important contacts could also be made with the European Parliament through the participation of Holger Krahmer (DE/ALDE), MEP, former rapporteur on the Ambient Air Quality Directive, in an ENVE Commission meeting, and the participation of the CoR in panels together with Members of the European Parliament.
    The activities of the rapporteur, have contributed to increasing the profile, inter institutional role and visibility in the field, in particular his presentations given at various events, including at the European Commission "Stakeholder Expert Group on the Review of EU Air Policy";
    The Opinion has contributed, as an Outlook Opinion referral from the European Commission, to the successful implementation of the CoR/EC Cooperation Agreement;
    The accompanying and continuing membership of the ENVE Secretariat in the European Commission European Commission "Stakeholder Expert Group on the Review of EU Air Policy" allows for follow-up of the Opinion, to receive regular updated information on the European Commission' further preparations, and to network with CEMR and Eurocities as key local and regional associations also being members of the expert group.

    The European Commission on 18 December 2013 adopted its "Clean Air Policy Package", which consists of a new Clean Air Programme for Europe, a proposal for a revised National Emission Ceilings (NEC) Directive, and a proposal for a new Directive to reduce pollution from medium-sized combustion installations.

    While the complexity and comprehensiveness of the package does not allow at this stage a full examination of the impact of the CoR Outlook Opinion, in particular with a view to the proposed level of ambition of the NEC Directive, some first analysis can be drawn.

    The Clean Air Policy Package reflects some key recommendations of the CoR Opinion, as outlined in the following.

    Concerning recommendations of the CoR Opinion for a more ambitious EU source-based (emissions) policy:
    The Clean Air Programme stresses the importance of effective implementation of existing EU source-based legislation to resolve the ongoing substantial breaches of air quality standards by local and regional authorities. It refers notably to emissions from light-duty diesels, and the need for a new Euro 6 type approval under real-world driving conditions.
    The Clean Air Programme also stresses that "the targets for 2030 will require additional EU action to reduce emissions at source". It refers to the proposed revision of the NEC Directive, which foresees national emission reduction obligations for 2030 for the four original air pollutants (SO2, NOx, non-methane VOCs, and NH3), and for two new ones: primary PM2.5 and CH4 –with ammonia reductions required of 27%. In implementing the PM2.5 reductions, particular emphasis will be placed on reduction of black carbon (BC). The proposal for a new Directive on medium combustion plants is expected to close an important gap in EU source legislation. Moreover, the Clean Air Programme refers e.g. to the planned revision of the Non-Road Mobile Machinery Directive.

    The EC commits in the Clean Air Programme to support local and regional authorities with air quality problems through the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investments Funds (ESIF) and the new LIFE instrument for 2014-2020, and with measures that help local and regional authorities to promote sustainable mobility, reftrofit programmes, and public-oriented indicators to track progress in mitigating air pollution.

    Concerning the recommendations of the CoR Opinion for an integrated and coordinated (between immissions and emissions policy), and multilevel-governance approach to air policy:
    The Clean Air Programme stresses an integrated and multilevel governance-approach to air policy: Concerning the coordination of the air quality standards of the Ambient Air Quality (AAQ) Directive with EU source-based legislation, the AAQ Directive will be reviewed towards the WHO guidelines, once the new NEC Directive has set background concentrations on the right downwards track.
    The Clean Air Programme stresses that "Member States must work with their regions and cities".
    The proposed revision of the NEC Directive includes the new provision in Article 6 that Member States in their national air pollution control programmes shall "assess to what extent national emission sources are likely to impact air quality in their territories and neighbouring Member States" and "take account of the need to reduce air pollutant emissions for the purpose of reaching compliance with air quality objectives in their territories and, where appropriate in neighbouring Member States".

    However, the "Clean Air Policy Package" did not take on board key recommendations of the CoR Opinion for a revision of the AAQ Directive. The EC does not revise the AAQ Directive, arguing that policy should focus rather on achieving compliance with its air quality standards by 2020 at the latest. The CoR recommended to revise the AAQ Directive in particular to reduce the number of substances and the number of target and limit values by focusing on the most polluting substances and on those indicators that best reflect the health aspects; to investigate whether particle concentration and EC/BC are more suitable indicators; to examines the use of the annual average limit value for PM10 on the basis of multi-year average concentrations; to extend the possibility of additional derogations for reducing NO2 levels under specific circumstances; and to impose more specific rules on the location of measuring stations.

    Impact in 2012:
    The full impact of the outlook opinion can only be verified once the European Commission adopts its proposal for the review of EU air policy in 2013. The following can be already said:
    The opinion allowed the CoR to feed at an early stage the concerns of the EU's local and regional authorities into the preparations of the European Commission's review of EU Air Policy due in 2013, aimed at promoting an ambitious EU policy and air emissions that are consistent with the EU air quality obligations for local and regional authorities;
    The membership of the ENVE Secretariat in the European Commission "Stakeholder Expert Group on the Review of EU Air Policy" allows for follow-up of the opinion, to receive regular updated information on the European Commission' further preparations, and to network with CEMR and Eurocities as key local and regional associations also being members of the expert group.

    On 9 April 2012, the Rapporteur was awarded a title of the “European of the Week” within series on important Dutchmen in the EU by the most important website on EU issues in the Netherlands. The award had been given for his work in the CoR and more in particular, his contribution to the debates on the environment and air pollution.
    THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS



    - observes that the slowdown in improvements to air quality is, to a significant extent, due to a lack of ambition in EU source-based policy and an absence of national measures. Much of the burden and responsibility of solving the problems has been placed on local and regional authorities; A multilevel approach is required, in which each level of government (European, national, regional and local) must take responsibility and adopt the measures which can and must be adopted by the relevant level;

    - insists that the EU's immissions and emissions policies must be linked to each other. It is therefore essential that equal levels of ambition and synchronised timeframes be developed for EU source-based and immissions policy during the policy-development phase;

    - recommends a strengthening of EU emissions policy, in particular by making the review of the NEC directive ambitious enough to reduce background concentrations; by tightening up the Euro standards for vehicles with regard to NO2/NOx and particulate matter and emissions requirements for other mobile sources; by closing the gaps between EU vehicle emission standards and actual vehicle "real world" emissions; by tackling emissions from shipping and air traffic, and ammonia emissions from agriculture;

    - recommends that the review of the air quality directives (2008/50/EC and 2004/107/EC) in particular reduces the number of substances and the number of target and limit values by focusing on the most polluting substances and on those indicators that best reflect the health aspects; investigates whether particle concentration and EC/BC are more suitable indicators and which form they could be included in the directive; examines the use of the annual average limit value for PM10 on the basis of multi-year average concentrations; extends the possibility of additional derogations for reducing NO2 levels under specific circumstances; and imposes more specific rules on the location of measuring stations in order to ensure comparability.
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