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Health groups welcome today’s adoption of the Council negotiating mandate for the Ambient Air Quality Directive revision under the Spanish EU Presidency, as the right next step, as it means trilogue negotiations on clean air for health can start and be concluded before the 2024 EU elections.

Anne Stauffer, Deputy Director at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) comments:

An ambitious update of clean air standards will bring added health and economic value for everyone, and especially for those most at risk from breathing polluted air. For the clean air trilogue, health groups expect negotiators to show high political will and agree on an ambitious package. This includes especially being strict on flexibilities and delays, to prevent ill-health for millions of people, especially those facing health inequalities.”

Showing political will for reducing the unacceptably high burden of disease from air pollution includes: 

  • Member states keeping to revised legally binding limit values: the Council negotiating position includes the possibility for a member state to request a ten year postponement of having to keep the limit values. In view of the already existing high burden of disease from air pollution, this open door to further health impacts, healthcare costs and suffering would undercut health protection efforts.
  • Recognising and acting on health inequalities: Everyone is vulnerable to air pollution impacts, and some are more at risk than others. People’s level of vulnerability is outside of individual control, as it evolves with age, health condition, socio-economic status, as well as where people live, study, or work. The health of people facing social inequalities is particularly at risk from air pollution and should be prioritised. The Council negotiating position includes the possibility for member states with a lower than EU average GDP to delay the application of new standards for ten years. This would leave millions with avoidable health impacts and be a disservice to efforts to tackle health inequalities.
  • Setting a date for the swift full alignment of EU Clean Air standards with WHO air quality recommendations. The EP mandate includes a 2035 full alignment date, while the Council is silent on this question. Health groups have been calling for a full alignment by 2030 at the latest.
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