Thursday

6th Oct 2022

Most EU countries off-track on air pollution targets

  • Air pollution causes around 400,000 premature deaths every year in the EU (Photo: Friends of the Earth Scotland)

The European Commission now estimates that a majority of member states are off-target to deliver on their air pollution reduction commitments for 2020 and 2030.

In its first report on progress towards EU air pollution targets, the commission said that member states need to step up efforts to make sure their citizens can breathe clean air.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Every year, air pollution causes about 400,000 premature deaths in the EU and hundreds of billions of euros in health-related external costs.

"We need more effective measures to cut pollution in member states and to tackle air emissions across sectors, including agriculture, transport and energy," EU commissioner for the environment, Virginijus Sinkevičius, said on Friday (26 June).

The analysis, based on EU countries' emissions projections submitted to the commission last year, estimates that just 10 member states will meet its 2020 air pollution reduction targets.

And only Croatia, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Finland are expected to comply with their 2030 goals.

According to the commission, most non-compliance is related to the projected emission reduction commitments on ammonia (NH3) - typically used as a fertiliser for crops such as maize and wheat.

However, the Farm to Fork strategy proposed by the EU Commission last month aims to cut the EU's fertiliser use by 20 percent in the next decade - a move that could help steer countries towards reducing ammonia emissions.

The EU executive also expressed concern on biodiversity - since air pollution also leads to acidification, eutrophication and formation of ground-level ozone - all of which are detrimental to biodiversity.

But the data reported by member states so far is insufficiently representative and adequate to estimate the real effect of air pollution on the European ecosystems, according to the commission.

Following the coronavirus lockdown measures, satellite images revealed that air pollution dramatically decreased across the bloc.

However, recent studies show that levels of nitrogen dioxide are rebounding strongly in European capitals as countries start reopening their economies.

Car emissions increase - again

Meanwhile, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new cars and vans registered in the bloc increased again in 2019 for the third consecutive year, according to preliminary data published by the European Environment Agency on Friday.

One of the reasons include the growing market share of so-called sport utility vehicles - which are typically heavier, have more powerful engines and are powered by petrol, resulting in higher emissions than the average of other new petrol cars.

Carmakers are obliged to comply with the EU's emissions standards - a fleet-wide average of 95 grams per kilometre of CO2 - to avoid fines from the commission.

However, according to Julia Poliscanova from Brussels-based NGO Transport and Environment, "it is a scandal that one year out from their CO2 target, carmakers are still pushing gas-guzzling SUVs [sport utility vehicles]".

"Carmakers who recklessly choose to push lucrative SUVs are now asking for taxpayers' money to prolong the polluting bonanza," she said.

These vehicles could qualify to receive post-coronavirus stimulus incentives under emissions thresholds being discussed in Italy and Spain.

Although the market penetration of electric cars remained slow in 2019, the EU agency stressed that "zero- and low-emission vehicles must be deployed much faster across Europe to achieve the stricter targets that apply from 2020".

Last year, most hybrid and battery-electric vehicles were registered in Norway (56 percent), Iceland (19 percent), the Netherlands (16 percent) and Sweden (12 percent).

Among others, the Netherlands, Norway, France, the UK, Sweden and Ireland have already announced plans to phase-out vehicles with internal combustion engine between 2025 and 2040.

Air pollution drops in Europe, but how long will it last?

Air pollution has dramatically decreased across Europe following the coronavirus lockdown measures - although experts warn an 'emissions surge' is likely to happen as economies recover. Meanwhile, experts point out the link between air pollution and Covid-19 "underlying conditions".

Auditors raise alarm over air pollution in Europe

Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, and the Netherlands "have not taken sufficient action to improve air quality", according to a new report. In 2015, nearly 400,000 people in the EU died prematurely due to air pollution.

Air pollution, Europe's largest environmental health hazard

While the health of hundreds of thousands of Europeans' are affected each year by air quality issues, the EU and its member states struggle to implement and comply with legislation that aims to reduce air pollution.

Air pollution in many EU cities 'stubbornly high'

Many European citizens are still exposed to illegal and dangerous levels of pollution, especially badly in Italy and Poland, new data from the European Environment Agency revealed.

News in Brief

  1. Thousands of Hungarian students and teachers protest
  2. Swedish MEP cuts hair mid-speech to support Iran women
  3. Danish general election called for 1 November
  4. Slovenia legalises gay marriage, adoption
  5. Russia's stand-in EU ambassador reprimanded on Ukraine
  6. France warns over incoming eighth Covid wave
  7. EU adds Anguilla, Bahamas and Turks and Caicos to tax-haven blacklist
  8. Czechs warn joint-nationality citizens in Russia on mobilisation

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  2. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  4. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  5. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”

Latest News

  1. EU wants to see US list on Russia financing of politicians
  2. Putin's twin aim: to break Ukraine and West's consensus
  3. Putin's diamond firm off the hook in EU sanctions
  4. The Iranian regime's expiration date
  5. Let's end Bulgaria and Romania's 11-year Schengen purgatory
  6. EU debates new pandemic-type loans to deal with crisis
  7. MEPs condemn EU Commission 'leniency' on Hungary
  8. Czech EU presidency wants asylum pledges to be secret

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us