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Analysis: will the EU air package deliver?

A recent article in the Atmospheric Environment Journal examines if the EU Commission’s Clean Air Policy Package will deliver on its promises. The authors urge for the strengthening of some of the EU’s air quality limits to complement more ambitious emission reductions.

The article authored by Roy M. Harrison, Bert Brunekreef, Menno Keuken, Hugo Denier van der Gon, and Xavier Querol focuses on different elements of the EU Air package including the link between emissions and air quality standards, the EU Commission projections on what the emission cuts will mean for improving air quality and if current EU air quality limit values protect public health.

The authors look at the role that air quality standards have played in tackling air pollution, and argue that both emission caps and air quality standards need to be simultaneously adjusted to improve air quality. In addition, the foreseen emission reduction of 51% for PM2.5 in the National Emissions Ceilings Directive should be strengthened, as important sources of fine particles such as domestic wood burning and some traffic-related emissions due not fall under these reduction commitments and therefore the overall improvement for air quality will be smaller. Overall, the authors fear that the EU Commission’s projection on the improvements in air quality that will be gained from the proposed emission reductions are grossly over-optimistic.

Policy recommendations

The scientists urge the strengthening of some of the EU limit values, as advised by the World Health Organization (in the 2013 REVIHAAP report), specifically in relation to PM2.5, PM10, NO2 and long-term exposure to ozone, as this could provide a valuable complementary driver towards air quality improvement alongside more ambitious emissions limits, especially in the medium term to 2020.

The full article is available via Science Direct (subscription only)

Originally posted on 14 May 2014

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