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Zero pollution - EU local and regional governments urge to tighten emissions at source  

​The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) adopted at the  July plenary session  the opinion The Future of EU Clean Air policy in the framework of the zero-pollution ambition drafted by János Ádám Karácsony (HU/EPP), member of the Local Government of Tahitótfalu.  In the context of the COVID-19, the rapporteur of the CoR opinion stresses the possible link between pollution and the gravity of infection’s consequences. Therefore, fighting air pollution must be among the top priorities of the recovery plan. Pollution reduction during lockdown showed the importance of a healthier environment. Local leaders encourage Member States to deliver and update their National Air Pollution Control Programmes as a matter of urgency and to take LRAs' contributions on board.

The European Committee of the Regions welcomes Green Deal, Zero pollution ambition and Zero pollution action plan.The Zero pollution ambition is one of the main environmental priorities of the European Green Deal and includes the proposal of a Zero pollution action plan for water, air and soil, scheduled for 2021. Upcoming CoR opinions include clean air, water, hydrogen and biodiversity, all crucial to the Green Deal's ultimate goal: reaching climate-neutrality by 2050.

"The difficult recovery ahead of us cannot undermine the EU's zero pollution ambition. Clean air and the overall zero-pollution action plan must be an integral part of the COVID-19 economic recovery addressing air pollution at the source and involving the citizens in the process" said rapporteur János Ádám Karácsony.

The air pollution is the largest environmental health risk in the EU, responsible for nearly 500 000 premature deaths (ten times the toll of road traffic accidents) each year. Air pollution is linked to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, strokes and cancer. It also has significant adverse effects on climate, ecosystems, built environment – including cultural heritage – and economy.

The EU's assembly of cities and regions reiterate its call for an integrated approach, an ambitious source-based policy, and links between immissions and emissions policies and stresses that many Member States are not meeting the current standards.

CoR supports the EC's announcement to align more closely air quality standards to the WHO guidelines, which are currently being revised and asks for further assistance in the implementation and strictly monitored compliance of timeframes.

The CoR members asks for improvement of Ambient Air Quality (AAQ) directives and inclusion of ultrafine particles (UFP) and black carbon (BC). A shift from measuring air quality to people's exposure to air pollution has to be made. CoR looks forward to legislative proposals and will contribute.

Members suggest focussing more on emissions regulation to reduce emissions at source (pollution prevention). EU legislation can ensure a more level playing-field, as stricter local emissions reduction requirements may have adverse economic effects. EU legislation should also prevent pollution being shifted to another location.

CoR stresses need for cross-sectoral cooperation and coherence of relevant policy areas and improve funding system, in particular for poorest areas and those with adverse situations.

The European Committee of the Regions underlines importance of public engagement. More use should be made of existing IT solutions, mobile phone applications and other relevant tools to inform the public, making the 'invisible killer' visible so as to increase public awareness. Information should be easy to access and understand, as well as include health aspects. The current website of the European Air Quality Index should also be improved through modelling to give air quality information for regions, smaller villages, and rural areas, where air quality is not measured by monitoring stations.

Opinion welcomes efforts towards international agreement against transboundary air pollution and Green City Accord initiative.

The opinion was adopted alongside a high-level debate on the European Green Deal, the EU's growth strategy to reach climate-neutrality by 2050. On 15 June, the CoR launched the working group 'Green Deal Going Local'. Composed of 13 local and regional elected representatives, it aims at converting the Green Deal into concrete projects and direct funding for cities and regions to deliver the sustainable transition on the ground.


Click here to reach the new web portal 'Green Deal Going Local'.

For the air quality index click here:

Wioletta Wojewodzka
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