European Parliament opts for less ambitious plan to clean up our air

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The European Parliament today endorsed a timid Commission proposal to reduce air pollutant emissions across the EU for the next fifteen years. MEPs shied away from the more ambitious plan put forward by the Parliament’s Environment Committee in July which would have prevented 42,800 more premature deaths every year than the Commission’s proposal by 2025, even though they chose to set a binding target for 2025.

MEPs did however hold off strong pressure from the intensive farming lobby to retain the ammonia target, a pollutant which transforms naturally to become fine particles harmful to human health. 95% of ammonia emissions in the EU come from the agricultural sector. Nevertheless, a significant share of methane emissions from agriculture are exempted following strong pressure from the intensive farming lobby.

Louise Duprez, Senior Policy Officer for Air Pollution at the European Environmental Bureau, commented: “Despite evidence that the higher targets were cost-effective and feasible, and that they would save more lives, MEPs failed to seize the opportunity. This means fewer lives saved and higher costs to society. With the Volkswagen scandal fresh in their minds, MEPs had a major opportunity to right a wrong and take action to clean up Europe’s air. In the weeks and months ahead, they have a major responsibility to secure an outcome that is going to prevent the further loss of human life.”

The text approved by the Parliament will now go into three-way negotiations with the European Commission and Ministers for the Environment so that a final deal can be hammered out in the new year.

The statement from EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella urging the Parliament against more ambition in tackling air pollution was deeply regrettable.