EU approves new rules for Member States to drastically cut air pollution

Today the European Parliament and the Council have signed into law the new National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive, based on a Commission proposal, which sets stricter limits on the five main pollutants (fine particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, non-methane volatile organic compounds, and ammonia). It will enter into force on 31 December 2016.When fully implemented, the Directive will reduce by almost 50% the negative health impacts of air pollution, such as respiratory diseases and premature death, by 2030. The role of the Member States in coordinating and implementing the new rules at national level is very important. Member States must transpose the Directive into national legislation by 30 June 2018 and produce a National Air Pollution Control Programme by 2019 setting out measures to ensure that emissions of the five main air pollutants are reduced by the percentages agreed by 2020 and 2030. They must also coordinate with plans in fields such as transport, agriculture, energy and climate. Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, said: “The new European air quality rules are a significant landmark in the fight against this invisible killer that is air pollution. Air pollution kills over 450 000 people in Europe each year. This is more than ten times as many as road traffic accidents. Now it is for the national governments to start with implementation so that people can benefit from cleaner air. We will work with Member States to support them in this challenge for improving the health of EU citizens.” The Directive is the central element of the Commission’s more comprehensive Clean Air Programme for Europe.