Health groups call on the leaders of the Western Balkan countries to harmonize national air quality standards with the World Health Organization Global air quality guidelines. Health experts should be actively involved in these decision-making processes to ensure the timely integration of public health measures into environmental policies. Compliance with WHO recommendations brings multiple benefits – reduced incidence of chronic diseases and premature deaths, reduced overall health costs and, most importantly, better health and higher productivity of people.
Brussels, Belgium – Effective air pollution limits could save more than 20,000 lives every year, yet some national governments are threatening to veto EU measures to tackle toxic pollution.
A European petition launched today calls on governments to protect citizens’ health and the environment by adopting a European environmental standards document called the ‘revised LCP BREF’. The petition also demands that governments protect their citizens’ health by imposing strict limits on toxic pollution from coal.
A recent report  has shown how new pollution limits could help reduce the annual number of premature deaths caused by burning coal from 22,900 to 2,600 deaths.
The new standards are the result of years of negotiations between government, industry and NGO representatives. Their adoption was expected to be a formality but pressure from industry has led various Member States to threaten to veto the new rules at the final hurdle. 
Major European environmental groups the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and WWF have teamed up with campaigning organisation WeMove.EU to launch the petition. The petition is available in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian and Polish, it will be delivered to national governments a week before a crucial vote by national governments at an EU Committee meeting on April 28.
-  See: Lifting Europe’s Dark Cloud: How cutting coal saves lives & country-specific factsheets.
-  A leaked letter revealed that a group of five countries wrote to Commissioner Vella in September last year demanding that the revised LCP BREF be further delayed. Ministers from the UK, Poland, Czech Republic, Finland and Greece wrote that there was a need to avoid a “disproportionate financial cost or technical burden on industry”. Yet updating the standards is already more than two years behind schedule and the delay in implementing them has already led to more than 54,000 additional deaths and almost €150 billion in associated health costs – a burden on taxpayers all over Europe. In fact, the public benefits will be significantly higher because the standards will also apply to more than 2,000 other non-coal Large Combustion Plants in the EU and will also set stricter discharge limits for water pollutants.
- A Q&A about the LCP BREF is available online in English and in Polish.
- The petition is available in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Polish.
- The press release is available in English, German, and Polish.
About the organisations behind the petition:
WeMove.EU is a citizens’ movement, campaigning for a better Europe; for a European Union committed to social and economic justice, environmental sustainability and citizen-led democracy. We are people from all walks of life, who call Europe our home – whether we were born in Europe or elsewhere.
The European Environmental Bureau is the largest federation of environmental citizens’ organisations in Europe. It currently consists of over 150 member organisations in more than 30 countries (virtually all EU Member States plus some accession and neighbouring countries), including a growing number of European networks, and representing some 15 million individual members and supporters. The EEB stand for environmental justice, sustainable development and participatory democracy. Our aim is to ensure the EU secures a healthy environment and rich biodiversity for all.
The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. HEAL has more than 70 member organisations, representing networks of health professionals, non-profit health insurers, patients, citizens, women, youth and environmental experts working at the international, EU, national and local level. Together, we help to bring independent expertise and evidence from the health community to different decision-making processes.
WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by: conserving the world’s biological diversity ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption The European Policy Office contributes to the achievement of WWF’s global mission by leading the WWF network to shape EU policies impacting on the European and global environment.
Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is Europe’s largest coalition working on climate and energy issues. With over 130 member organisations in more than 30 European countries – representing over 44 million citizens – CAN Europe works to prevent dangerous climate change and promote sustainable climate and energy policy in Europe.