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Cities and regions are key to reducing pollution across the EU  

​​​​The Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform , a joint initiative of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the European Commission (EC), held its third meeting on 11 October, focusing on the Zero Pollution Action Plan ’s role in supporting cities and regions to reduce air, water and soil pollution in the EU.

Cities and regions have a vital role in achieving the EU’s zero pollution ambition, particularly through improving their own local environment. The Zero Pollution Action Plan’s dedicated flagship initiatives on ‘Supporting urban zero pollution action’ and ‘Promoting zero pollution across regions’ are key to this. These were some of the key messages shared by the participants during the European Week of Regions and Cities (#EURegionsWeek), the biggest annual Brussels-based event on cohesion policy.

Virginijus Sinkevičius , European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: “All round the Union, we see progress and dynamism, in cities and regions that are drivers for change. Major cities are committing to goals for air, water, biodiversity, waste and noise, to be reached by the end of the decade. One hundred cities have already joined the EU Green City Accord. The Accord is a credible, practical framework, helping cities become healthier, cleaner and greener. It also supports the local delivery of the European Green Deal, and the urban dimension of the Zero Pollution Action Plan."

From the European Committee of the Regions, Markku Markkula (FI/EPP) , Vice Co-chair of the Zero-Pollution Stakeholder Platform and president of the Helsinki region, said: "We must speed up cooperation and increase synergies to tackle the pollution challenges we are facing. The Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform has great potential to act as a multiplier of knowledge exchange and the roll-out of new technologies and societal innovations that a broad spectrum of actors is developing at the forefront of scientific and social development. I encourage all stakeholders to play an active role in the platform, join the new EU mission on soils and make the most of the the New European Innovation Agenda to tackle soil, air and water pollution in every territory." Mr Markkula, a former CoR president, is a member of the Espoo city council and of the CoR’s Green Deal Going Local working group.

Maria Neira, Director for Environment, Climate Change and Health at the World Health Organization, stressed that: “Mayors have direct competences and impact on citizens’ daily lives, including urban planning, housing, transport and air pollution. Local leaders’ work is therefore pivotal to protecting citizens’ health and living conditions. The WHO supports the EU’s zero pollution strategy for seven million reasons. The same seven million citizens who die prematurely every year due to their exposure to air pollution. We must place health upfront all our policies, from economic development to climate action.”

Over 100 cities in the EU still do not meet EU air-quality standards and seven EU capital cities do not meet the minimum water-quality requirements. To address this, stakeholders discussed financing, innovation and governance for zero pollution in cities, including actions and lessons learned from frontrunner urban areas. Participants also debated the Green City Accord , the role of Smart Cities and synergies with the Cities Mission , the Urban Agenda , the New European Bauhaus , the Covenant of Mayors , Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans and other initiatives.

To promote zero pollution across regions, the European Commission is developing a 'scoreboard' of EU regions’ green performance. The meeting discussed how this will measure the efforts of EU regions to achieve pollution-reduction targets, driving a race towards zero pollution, forming the basis to reward the best performances and enabling citizens to check progress over time.

In addition, the meeting focused on phasing out pollution from pharmaceuticals in cities and regions, including advancing the EU’s “Pharmaceuticals in the Environment” Strategy.

In direct relation with the Zero Pollution Action Plan , the European Committee of the Regions is adopting, at the plenary session this week, an opinion on the 'Revision of the Industrial Emissions Directive' , by rapporteur Jean-Noël Verfaillie (FR/Renew Europe). The draft opinion includes proposals for addressing industrial pollution at the local and regional levels, such as redirecting penalties and compensatory payments to cities and regions to tackle the environmental, health, social and economic impacts of industrial pollution.


Click here to access the documents of the third meeting of the Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform. The meeting was preceded by a high-level session as part of the 2022 European Week of Regions and Cities.

The Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform was launched in June 2021. Information on workshops and other events are available on the Platform’s web page.

The first meeting of the Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform took place on 16 December 2021 with the presence of the Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius and the President of the European Committee of the Regions and Governor of the Region of Central Macedonia in Greece, Apostolos Tzitzikostas . You can read the press release here and watch the session here.

The second meeting of the Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform took place on 25 April 2022, co-chaired by Patrick Child, Deputy Director General of DG Environment of the European Commission, and Marieke Schouten (NL/Greens), Alderman of the municipality of Nieuwegein. You can read the press release and watch the session here.

Green Deal Going Local is the CoR initiative to place cities and regions at the heart of the EU’s transition towards climate neutrality.


David Crous

Tel. +32 (0)470 88 10 37

Theresa Sostmann

Tel. +32 2 282 24 57

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