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Health groups dismayed over lack of clarity on air package

Brussels, 16 December 2014 - EU Commission First Vice-President Timmermans’ announcement on the future of the clean air quality package in 2015, in particular the National Emissions Ceilings Directive (NEC), was disappointingly unclear, according to health, medical and air expert groups from all over Europe.

Speaking to the European Parliament on the EU Commission’s work programme today, Timmermans said that a gap had opened up between the position of the Council and the European Parliament on the air package. He said that the Commission would come forward with a modified package, which would not compromise on goals but would include new methods for implementation. He said that the compromise proposals would be brought forward during ongoing negotiations and would take into account the EU’s 2030 climate and energy targets agreed by EU leaders at their October summit in Brussels.

“The package has not been withdrawn and we hope this remains so. We expect the negotiations in Parliament and Council to continue for the benefit of citizen’s health, because everything else would be an unacceptable delay.” says Anne Stauffer, Deputy Director, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).

The package, including the important proposal for the National Emissions Ceilings Directive (NEC), has been under serious threat of withdrawal by EU Commission President Juncker and First Vice-President Timmermans because of strong industry pressure in recent weeks.

Ms Stauffer continues: “We deplore the confusion that has been created as our health should not be subjected to political tactics and the deregulatory agenda. We are calling on Parliament to come out with a strong statement in support of the National Emissions Ceilings Directive (NEC).

“Air pollution is a “big issue” for Europe and one that cannot be solved at national level because pollution knows no borders. The NEC Directive is the only instrument to tackle transboundary air pollution and represents a cost-effective law to reduce pollution at the source.”

The proposal currently in negotiation in the European Parliament and with Member States follows a comprehensive impact assessment, and a review of the latest science. It is modest given that it aims to reduce premature deaths from exposure to air pollution by 58,000 out of a total toll of 400,000 per year.(1) A recent assessment for the European Parliament has shown that because of synergies with the EU’s 2030 climate and energy package, air pollution reduction ambition can be increased at no additional cost. All sectors should share the burden of air pollution since it stems from many sources.

HEAL and its members and partners will continue to work with decision-makers to improve the package. In November, the European Respiratory Society (ERS), representing 10,000 experts in Europe, and the European Federation of Asthma and Allergies Patients Associations (EFA) joined HEAL in a joint letter to Commissioner President Juncker urging action on air quality. (2) HEAL has also been collaborating closely with the International Association of Mutual Benefit Societies (AIM) to bring attention to this issue. AIM brings together 59 health mutual and health insurance funds representing 230 million people worldwide, including 160 million in Europe. (3)

Background and Notes available in the downloadable version of the press release here

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Last updated on 19 February 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 »


HEAL has over 70 member organisations, representing health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations, as well as national and local groups. Read more »

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