EU air pollution rules up in the air as lobbyists threatens ambition

climate plan

Creative Commons: 2007

Stricter limits on European methane and ammonia emissions hangs in the balance, as MEPs prepare to vote on new air pollution rules.

The European Parliament will vote tomorrow (28 October) on its position on planned national emissions ceilings of harmful air pollutants responsible for over 400,000 early deaths and and up to €900 billion in health costs each year.

Air pollution’s harmful effects are well-known and wide reaching. In the UK alone, tens of thousands of people die prematurely from air pollution, while the health costs of particulate matter are estimated to be between £8.5 billion and £20.2 billion a year.

With so much at stake, campaigners are calling on MEPs to support ambitious proposals for air pollution and not to give in to the lobbying efforts trying to weaken the Directive.

Alan Andrew, Clean Air Lawyer at ClientEarth said:

Thousands of people in Britain and throughout Europe die or are made seriously ill every year from breathing polluted air, so all the big polluters need to play their part. This includes agriculture – no one industry should be getting a free pass.

Cutting pollution from farms is simple, cost effective and can even make more efficient and competitive in the long-term.

The Directive first proposed in 2013 covers seven pollutants, and would increase reporting and monitoring and set new binding commitments for 2020 and 2030, and interim non-binding targets for 2015.

And while the proposals remain far from ambitious – falling a long way short of World Health Organization recommendations – the proposals have met resistance from lobby groups and EU member countries.

ClientEarth warn the UK government is coming under increasing pressure from farming lobbyists, with the country’s position directly reflecting the view of the National Farmers’ Union; who back in July expressed their “bitter disappointment” at ammonia and methane targets.

Flying in the face of its own scientific evidence showing the benefits of reducing emissions of ammonia, and despite claims that reducing air pollution is a “priority” after the Supreme Court ordered it earlier this year to clean up the UK’s air, the UK government is putting pressure on MEPs to weaken the Directive.

It wants lower targets for ammonia – citing concerns over the UK’s dairy industry – and wants to scrap methane targets completely. In a note to MEPs, Defra said including methane would cause “additional regulatory burden for industry and Government without a corresponding benefit for the environment”.

Andrews said:

We are counting on British MEPs to stand up for our right to breathe clean air rather than buckle under pressure from the farming lobby and the British Government.

But the UK is not the only hurdle for the Directive has to get through. Last week, German MEP Jens Gieseke of the centre-right European People’s Party proposed amendments that would remove methane and ammonia completely.

The European Parliament will vote on the proposal tomorrow, ahead of three-way negotiations with the European Commission and member countries next year.

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