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MEPs put health first in key air vote

Press statement

Brussels, 15 July 2015 – HEAL welcomes today’s vote in the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety on the new EU National Emissions Ceilings Directive (NEC). The NEC is a key law to improve air quality in Europe, as it is the only instrument tackling cross-border air pollution, and implementing the EU’s international commitments under the UN Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution. The new NEC will set limits for emissions of the major air pollutants including particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, ammonia and methane.

“Air pollution continues to be a major health and environmental threat in Europe, with 430,000 early deaths each year and huge health economic costs” , says Anne Stauffer, Deputy Director of HEAL.

She adds “Today’s vote is therefore welcome news for all those suffering from heart and lung disease and parents concerned about the health of their children. The emission cuts foreseen in the NEC will also help to bring down healthcare costs and boost workers productivity. With today’s vote, MEPs have put health first, in light of heavy lobbying from the agricultural sector and industry. We are particularly pleased that they insist on tackling emissions of mercury, a highly toxic heavy metal, which threatens the healthy development of our children. European Parliamentarians gave the clear signal that efforts for cleaner air need to be strengthened, and that this also includes bringing down ammonia and methane emissions.”

HEAL calls on all Members of the European Parliament to follow the EP’s Environment Committee’s health-first position for the plenary vote in Autumn.

In the text adopted today by the Environment Committee, the pollution targets are more stringent than in the Commission’s original proposal. The targets for 2025 have also become binding when they were only indicative originally, and mercury has been added as one of the pollutants covered by the directive.


Joint NGO recommendations for clean air

Ahead of the vote, over sixty health, environmental and animal welfare organisations including HEAL urged MEPs to stand for ambitious EU action that will benefit people’s health, environment and the economy - see recommendations below.

14 July 2015

Dear Members of the EP’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety,

On 15 July 2015, you will vote on Julie Girling’s report concerning the revised National Emission Ceilings (NEC) Directive. On behalf of a coalition of over sixty health, environmental and animal welfare organisations, we urge you to stand for ambitious EU action that will benefit people’s health, environment and the economy.

Every year, over 400,000 Europeans die prematurely because of air pollution. Bad air quality causes severe illnesses such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease, aggravation of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), harms to children’s healthy development and is a risk factor for diabetes. The health-related economic costs of air pollution are enormous, amounting to between 330 billion and 940 billion EUR for the EU in the year 2010 alone. This is equivalent to between 3 and 9 percent of the EU’s GDP. Air pollution also impacts Europe’s nature and biodiversity, agricultural yields and natural vegetation. Crop yield losses due to air pollution are estimated at 3 billion EUR per year in 2010.

More ambition is necessary, possible and cost-effective. The Commission’s proposal to revise the NEC Directive is very welcome but far from sufficient to solve Europe’s air quality problems. The European Parliament’s impact assessment shows that the new EU climate and energy policy agreed by the Council in October would lead to significant air quality improvements for costst that are lower than in the initial Commission proposal.

We therefore call upon you to support:

1. Binding and ambitious emission reduction commitments for 2025
2. Ambitious emission reduction commitments for 2030
3. Ammonia emission reduction commitments
4. Methane emission reduction commitments
5. Mercury emission reduction commitments
6. Deletion of flexibilities
7. Effective national air pollution control programmes (NAPCPS)
8. Access to justice and public participation and information.

The full list of NGO recommendations can be found in the letter here

Useful resources

- 15 July 2015: EEB Press release - European Parliament votes for a breath of fresh air

- 11 June 2015: HEAL in Poland calls on Ministry of Environment for stronger support of NEC Directive

- 13 April 2015: Achieving better air quality with the NEC

Last updated on 15 July 2015

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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. Read more »


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