Thursday

24th Jun 2021

EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050

  • There are 31 ongoing infringement procedures, against 18 member states, for failing to implement current EU air quality rules (Photo: Skaja Lee)

The European Commission on Wednesday (12 May) unveiled a plan to reduce pollution to levels that are no longer harmful to human health and natural ecosystems by 2050 - when the EU aims to become climate neutral.

Air pollution is considered the biggest environmental risk to human health in the EU. Every year, it causes 400,000 premature deaths, 48,000 cases of heart disease as well as 6.5 million cases of chronic sleep disturbance to noise.

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"New green technologies already here can help reduce pollution and offer new business opportunities," said the EU commissioner in charge of the Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, arguing that recovery funds can support this goal.

"Europe's efforts to build back a cleaner, fairer, and more sustainable economy must likewise contribute to achieving the zero pollution ambition," he added.

In its 'zero pollution' action plan, Brussels set out several targets for the next decade, including reducing the number of premature deaths caused by air pollution by 55 percent.

In 2022, the EU will propose to align its currently less stringent standards on air quality more closely to the World Health Organization.

There are currently 31 ongoing infringement procedures against 18 member states for failing to implement EU air quality rules at national level.

Last year, the commission concluded that a majority of member states were not on target to deliver their air-pollution reduction commitments for 2020 and 2030.

The EU executive also wants to improve seawater quality by halving plastic litter and reducing microplastics by 2030. This should also lead to having cleaner water from the tap all across Europe, it said.

There are currently 30 ongoing cases against 19 member states for breaching EU law on urban water waste, plus four covering drinking water law.

Aiming to boost soil quality, the EU commission committed to reducing by 50 percent nutrient losses and the use and risk of chemical pesticides - a target already included in its Fram to Fork strategy.

Meanwhile, the 27-members bloc also aims to significantly reduce waste generation and halve residual municipal waste in the next decade.

Brussels is currently reviewing EU waste laws to adapt them to the clean and circular economy principle.

The EU Commission will monitor progress of this action plan, and identify whether additional action is needed to reach targets, by 2025.

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