Tag Archives: Air quality

Pure air for Europe

Pure air for Europe

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Pure air for Europe

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Environment > Air pollution

Pure air for Europe

Document or Iniciative

Directive 2008/50/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe.

Summary

This Directive lays down measures aimed at the following:

  • defining and establishing objectives for ambient air quality * designed to reduce harmful effects on health and the environment;
  • assessing the ambient air quality in Member States on the basis of common methods and criteria;
  • collating information on ambient air quality in order to monitor long-term trends, in particular;
  • ensuring that such information on ambient air quality is made available to the public;
  • maintaining air quality where it is good and improving it in other cases;
  • promoting increased cooperation between the Member States in reducing air pollution.

Member States shall designate the competent authorities and bodies responsible for evaluating the quality of ambient air, approving measurement systems, ensuring the accuracy of measurements, analysing assessment methods and cooperating with other Member States and the Commission.

Air quality assessment

This Directive establishes a system for the assessment of ambient air quality in relation to sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter (PM10 and PM2,5), lead, benzene and carbon monoxide as well as ozone.

Member States shall establish areas or zones (urban, suburban, rural, rural background) throughout their territory, and assess and manage the air quality.

This Directive sets thresholds for assessment for each pollutant, criteria for the assessment method (in particular the siting of sampling points), reference methods for measurement, limit values * for the protection of human health and the environment, the target and the obligation of reducing exposure for the population to PM2,5, information thresholds * and alert thresholds *, critical levels * for the protection of vegetation and the list of information to be included in action plans for improvement in air quality.

Each Member State shall set up at least one measuring station and may, by agreement with adjoining Member States, set up one or several common measuring stations.

Air quality management and action plans

Where the levels of pollutants in ambient air are below the limit values specified in this Directive, Member States shall maintain the levels of those pollutants below the limit values and shall endeavour to preserve the best ambient air quality, compatible with sustainable development.

Where, in given zones or agglomerations, the levels of pollutants in ambient air exceed any limit value or target value *, plus any relevant margin of tolerance in each case, Member States shall ensure that air quality plans are established for those zones and agglomerations in order to achieve the predefined limit value or target value.

In the event of exceedances of those limit values for which the attainment deadline is already expired, the air quality plans shall set out appropriate measures, so that the exceedance period can be kept as short as possible and can include additional specific measures to protect sensitive population groups. Measures similar to those laid down in short-term action plans may be considered.

Where there is a risk that the levels of pollutants will exceed the alert thresholds, Member States shall draw up action plans indicating the measures to be taken in the short term in order to reduce the risk or its duration. These actions plans can in particular suspend activities which contribute to the risk of exceedance (motor-vehicle traffic, construction works, the use of industrial plants etc.). In addition, these action plans may include specific measures aimed at the protection of sensitive population groups, in particular children.

Where thresholds are exceeded due to transboundary transport of air pollutants, the Member States concerned shall cooperate and coordinate their work in order to remove the exceedance.

Public information

Member States shall ensure that up-to-date information on ambient concentrations of the pollutants covered by this Directive is routinely made available to the public and the bodies concerned. Where alert thresholds and information thresholds are exceeded, Member States shall publish:

  1. information on the exceedance or exceedances observed (place, type of threshold, time and duration of the exceedance, highest concentration observed);
  2. forecasts for the following hours and days;
  3. information on the type of population concerned, possible health effects and recommended behaviour;
  4. information on preventative measures and measures to reduce the emissions.

Member States shall also make available to the public annual reports for all pollutants covered by this Directive.

Penalties

Member States shall lay down the rules on penalties applicable to infringements of the national provisions adopted pursuant to this Directive and shall take all measures necessary to ensure that they are implemented. The penalties must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive.

Context

This Directive repeals and replaces Directive 96/62/EC on ambient air quality assessment and management, Directive 1999/30/EC relating to limit values for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter and lead in ambient air, Directive 2000/69/EC relating to limit values for benzene and carbon monoxide in ambient air, Directive 2002/3/EC relating to ozone in ambient air and Decision 97/101/EC establishing a reciprocal exchange of information and data on air pollution within the Member States.

Key Terms of the Act
  • Ambient air: outdoor air in the troposphere, excluding workplaces as defined by Directive 89/645/EEC.
  • Limit value: a level fixed on the basis of scientific knowledge, with the aim of avoiding, preventing or reducing harmful effects on human health and/or the environment as a whole, to be attained within a given period and not to be exceeded once attained.
  • Target value: a level fixed with the aim of avoiding, preventing or reducing harmful effects on human health and/or the environment as a whole, to be attained where possible over a given period.
  • Information threshold: a level beyond which there is a risk to human health from brief exposure for particularly sensitive sections of the population and for which immediate and appropriate information is necessary.
  • Alert threshold: a level beyond which there is a risk to human health from brief exposure for the population as a whole and at which immediate steps are to be taken by the Member States.
  • Critical level: a level fixed on the basis of scientific knowledge, above which direct adverse effects may occur on some receptors, such as trees, other plants or natural ecosystems but not on humans.

References

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Directive 2008/50/EC [adoption COD/2005/0183]

11.6.2008

10.6.2010

OJ L 152 of 11.6.2008

Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution

Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Environment > Air pollution

Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution

Act

Communication of 21 September 2005 from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament – Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution [COM(2005) 446 – Not published in the Official Journal]

Summary

In order to attain “levels of air quality that do not give rise to significant negative impacts on, and risks to human health and environment”, this Thematic Strategy supplements the current legislation. It establishes objectives for air pollution and proposes measures for achieving them by 2020: modernising the existing legislation, placing the emphasis on the most harmful pollutants, and involving to a greater extent the sectors and policies that may have an impact on air pollution.

Air Pollution

Air pollution seriously damages human health and the environment: respiratory problems, premature deaths, eutrophication * and damage to ecosystems as a result of the deposition of nitrogen and acidic substances are some of the consequences of this problem which is both local and transfrontier in nature.

The pollutants causing the greatest concern where public health is concerned are tropospheric ozone * and especially particulate matter * (in particular fine particles or PM2.5).

The objectives of the Strategy

The Strategy chosen sets health and environmental objectives and emission reduction targets for the main pollutants. These objectives will be delivered in stages, and will make it possible to protect EU citizens from exposure to particulate matter and ozone in air, and protect European ecosystems more effectively from acid rain, excess nutrient nitrogen, and ozone

When drawing up the Strategy, it was impossible to determine a level of exposure to particulate matter and tropospheric ozone that does not constitute a danger to human beings. However, a significant reduction in these substances will have beneficial effects in terms of public health, and will also generate benefits for ecosystems.

Compared with the situation in 2000, the Strategy sets specific long-term objectives (for 2020):

  • 47% reduction in loss of life expectancy as a result of exposure to particulate matter;
  • 10 % reduction in acute mortalities from exposure to ozone;
  • reduction in excess acid deposition of 74% and 39% in forest areas and surface freshwater areas respectively;
  • 43% reduction in areas or ecosystems exposed to eutrophication.

To achieve these objectives, SO2 emissions will need to decrease by 82%, NOx emissions by 60%, volatile organic compounds * (VOCs) by 51%, ammonia by 27%, and primary PM2.5 (particles emitted directly into the air) by 59% compared with the year 2000.

Implementing the Strategy will entail an incremental additional cost compared with spending on existing measures. This additional cost is likely to amount to EUR 7.1 billion per annum from 2020.

In terms of health, the savings that will be made as a result of the Strategy are estimated at EUR 42 billion per annum. The number of premature deaths should fall from 370 000 in 2000 to 230 000 in 2020 (compared with 293 000 in 2020 without the Strategy).

Where the environment is concerned, there is no agreed way to assign a monetary value to ecosystem damage or the likely benefits resulting from the Strategy. However, there should a be a favourable impact as a result of reducing acid rain and nutrient nitrogen inputs, resulting among other things in better protection for biodiversity.

Better European legislation on air quality

One of the crucial aspects in this respect is the simplification of legislation. A proposal to revise the legislation on air quality, which provides for merging the Framework Directive, the first, second, and third “Daughter Directives”, and the Exchange of Information Decision, is therefore attached to the Strategy.

It is proposed that the legislation on particulate matter should be supplemented by setting a limit value of 25 g/m³ for fine particles (PM 2.5) and an interim reduction target of 20% to be attained between 2010 and 2020.

The Strategy also makes provision for revising the legislation on national emission ceilings, extending, subject to strict conditions, certain deadlines for the implementation of legislative provisions, modernising data communication, and improving coherence with other environmental policies.

Integrating air quality concerns into the sectors concerned

More efficient energy use can help to reduce harmful emissions. The targets set concerning the production of energy and electricity from renewable energy sources (12% and 21% respectively by 2010) and concerning biofuels are major factors in this connection. The Strategy makes provision for possible extension of the IPPC Directive and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive to small combustion plants. The establishment of standards for small heating installations is also envisaged through the new Energy-using Products Directive. The Strategy also provides for examining how to reduce VOC emissions at filling stations.

Turning to transport, the Strategy envisages new proposals concerning the reduction of emissions from new passenger cars and vans, and heavy-duty vehicles. In addition, it envisages improvements in vehicle approval procedures and other measures concerning the scope for differentiated charging, and older vehicles.

The Commission is also planning to examine the impact of aviation on climate change in a forthcoming communication. Where shipping is concerned, the Strategy provides for the continuation of negotiations in the context of the International Maritime Organisation, the promotion of shore-side electricity for ships in port, and the consideration of pollution issues in relation to funding through programmes such as Marco Polo.

Where agriculture is concerned, the strategy calls for measures to be promoted to reduce the use of nitrogen in animal feedingstuffs and fertilisers. The rules and proposals concerning rural development also provide for possible ways of reducing ammonia emissions from agricultural sources, in particular through farm modernisation. The ongoing reform of the rules relating to the cohesion instruments also includes proposals that will help to meet the objectives of the Strategy.

The Strategy also calls for air quality concerns to be taken into account in international forums and bilateral relations.

Background

The Strategy on Air Pollution is one of the seven thematic strategies provided for in the Sixth Environmental Action Programme adopted in 2002. It is the first of these strategies to be adopted formally by the Commission.

It is based on research carried under by the Clean Air For Europe (CAFE) programme and the successive research framework programmes, and was adopted following a lengthy consultation process involving the European Parliament, Non-Governmental Organisations and industry and private individuals.

Key terms used in the act
  • Eutrophication: Excess nutrient nitrogen (in the form of ammonia and nitrogen oxides) which disrupts plant communities, and leaches into fresh waters, leading in each case to a loss of biodiversity.
  • Tropospheric ozone: Ozone which is formed through chemical reactions between volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the presence of sunlight and which accumulates at low altitudes.
  • Particulate matter: Fine dust emitted by certain human activities (primary particles) or which are formed in the atmosphere (secondary particles) from gases such as sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ammonia (NH3). Particles differ in size: large particles (PM10) are between 2.5 and 10
    m in diameter, while fine particles (PM2.5) are less than 2.5
    m in diameter.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Carbon-based chemical compounds emitted into the atmosphere from natural sources or as a result of human activities (e.g. the use of solvents, paints and varnishes, the storage of motor fuel and the use of motor fuel in filling stations, and vehicle exhaust gases).