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EEB report finds only Belgium and Slovakia on track to meet EU air pollution targets

All of the EU’s member states but two have failed to show how they will slash air pollution to comply with the emissions limits set out in the EU’s National Emission Ceilings Directive, according to a new report from the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

The EEB report—National Air Pollution Control Programmes: analysis and suggestions for the way forward—sheds light on progress by member states towards compliance with the National Emission Ceilings (NEC) Directive, which aims to halve the impact of air pollution on people health by 2030.

Under the directive, EU governments are obliged to develop national air pollution control programs which outline how the member state will reduce emissions of five major pollutants— sulfur dioxide (SO2); nitrogen oxides (NOx); non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs); ammonia (NH3); and PM2.5—by 2020 and 2030.

The first program was due by 1 April 2019. However, only eight countries submitted it by the deadline (Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom), while some other governments submitted theirs more than a year later. Greece, Luxembourg and Romania have still not delivered their program and Italy has only submitted a draft.

EEB analysis found that only two member states (Belgium and Slovakia) are on track to meet the targets for the decade between 2020 and 2029, while only Belgium is on course to satisfy its 2030 commitments.

The overall conclusion of this assessment of the Member States’ NAPCPs [National Air Pollution Control Programs] is that, whilst there have been some good improvements with the NAPCP process as a whole relative to the previous Directive, there are major issues with the reporting process and level of detail provided by the Member States (particularly in relation to PaMs).

There are a significant number of Member States projecting non-compliance with their emission reduction commitments, in particular for 2030 and for NH3, NOx and NMVOC. When you factor in the quality of the emission projections and overall credibility of the PaMs [policies and measures] reported in the NAPCPs, then the risk of non-compliance increases significantly for NH3, NOx, PM2.5 and NMVOC.

Our combined risk assessment (which builds on the Commission’s own assessment of the risks of non-compliance) shows that there are only two Member States judged to be at a low risk of non-compliance with their emission reduction commitments for all pollutants for 2020-29 and only one for 2030. The remainder are judged to be either at a medium or high risk of non-compliance for all pollutants with more than half of the Member States at high risk of non-compliance for 2030 onwards.

—“National Air Pollution Control Programmes”

Background. Despite improvements in air quality, air pollution remains the biggest environmental health risk in Europe, causing around 400,000 premature deaths per year in the European Union.

When adopting the NEC Directive, member states agreed to reduce their emissions of five pollutants by 2020 and 2030. EU legislation requires them to prepare a national air pollution control program outlining how they will meet their emissions reduction targets in all sectors, including domestic heating and agriculture.

When preparing these programs, national governments also have the obligation to consult with and inform the public.

The EEB is Europe’s largest network of environmental citizens’ groups with 150 members in more than 30 countries. Together with DUH, FNE and the Lake Constance Foundation, the EEB has launched the ‘Clean Air Farming‘ project to help reduce ammonia and methane emissions from agriculture.


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