Tag Archives: Thematic strategy

Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution

Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution

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


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


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]


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.


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).

Thematic strategy on the urban environment

Thematic strategy on the urban environment

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Thematic strategy on the urban environment


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

Environment > Soil protection

Thematic strategy on the urban environment

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission of 11 January 2006 on a thematic strategy on the urban environment [COM(2005) 718 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


The EU sets out cooperation measures and guidelines aimed at the Member States and the local authorities in order to enable them to improve urban environmental management in Europe.

The aim of this strategy is to improve the quality of the urban environment by making cities more attractive and healthier places in which to live, work and invest, and by reducing their adverse environmental impact.

The main measures proposed in the strategy are as follows:

  • publication of guidelines for the integration of environmental issues into urban policies. The guidelines will be based on best practice and expert advice. Integrated environmental management will make it possible to improve planning and avoid conflicts between the different measures;
  • publication of guidelines for sustainable urban transport plans. The guidelines will be based on best practice and expert advice. Effective transport planning should embrace both passengers and goods and promote safe and efficient use of less polluting, high-quality modes;
  • support for the exchange of best practices, e.g. through the networking of information, the development of demonstration projects funded by LIFE+, and the establishment of a network of national focal points;
  • broadening the range of information for local authorities via the Internet and of training on urban management issues for people working in regional and local government;
  • drawing on the Community support programmes in the context of cohesion policy or research.

The cross-cutting nature of urban management issues means that any strategy for improving the urban environment needs to be coordinated with the other environmental policies concerned. including climate change policy (sustainable construction to improve energy efficiency, urban transport plans, etc.), protection of nature and biodiversity (reducing urban sprawl, converting industrial wastelands, etc.), quality of life and health (reducing air pollution and noise, etc.), sustainable use of natural resources and prevention and recycling of waste.


Four out five Europeans live in urban areas. They share the same problems: poor air quality, high levels of traffic and congestion, very high levels of ambient noise, poor-quality built environment, derelict land, greenhouse gas emissions, urban sprawl, and waste and sewage disposal.

These are highly complex problems, and the causes are inter-related, which is why an integrated approach is needed. Given the wide variety of urban areas and existing obligations, which call for tailor-made solutions, together with the difficulties encountered in setting common urban environmental standards, guidelines and coordination measures are more appropriate instruments than legislation. This strategy is therefore based on subsidiarity, giving priority to local initiatives while promoting cooperation between the different levels of decision-making (Community, national and local) and interweaving the various strands of urban management.

The urban environment strategy is one of the seven thematic strategies mentioned in the Sixth Environment Action Programme.

Related Acts

Commission Communication of 11 February 2004 “Towards a thematic strategy on the urban environment” [COM(2004) 60 final – Official Journal C 98, 23.04.2004].
By means of a European strategy for the urban environment, the EU intends to reinforce the contribution of environmental policy to the sustainable development of urban areas, notably by focusing measures around four themes: urban management, transport, construction and urban design.

Decision No 1411/2001/EC

of the European Parliament and of the Council on a Community framework for cooperation to promote sustainable urban development [Official Journal L 191 of 13.07.2001].


Thematic strategy for soil protection

Thematic strategy for soil protection

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Thematic strategy for soil protection


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

Agriculture > Environment

Thematic strategy for soil protection


Commission Communication of 22 September 2006 entitled “Thematic strategy for soil protection” [COM(2006) 231 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Proposal for a European Parliament and Council Directive of 22 September 2006 setting out a framework for soil protection and amending Council Directive 2004/35/EC.


The EU thematic strategy for soil protection puts forward measures to protect soil and to preserve its capacity to perform its functions * in environmental, economic, social and cultural terms.

The strategy includes setting up a legislative framework for the protection and sustainable use of soil, integrating soil protection into national and EU policies, improving knowledge in this area and increasing public awareness.

The proposal for a Directive is a key component of the strategy, which enables Member States to adopt measures tailored to their local needs. It provides for measures to identify problems, prevent soil degradation and remediate polluted or degraded soil.

Risk prevention, mitigation and restoration

The measures included in the proposal for a Directive include obligatory identification by Member States of areas at risk of erosion, organic matter decline, compaction, salinisation and landslides, or where the degradation process is already underway. This will be done on the basis of criteria set out in the proposal.

Member States must then set objectives and adopt programmes of measures to reduce these risks and to address the effects they have. They must also take steps to limit soil sealing, notably by rehabilitating brownfield sites and, where sealing is necessary, to mitigate its effects.

Soil contamination

The proposal for a Directive also provides for Member States taking appropriate measures to prevent soil contamination by dangerous substances.

They must draw up a list of sites polluted by dangerous substances when concentration levels pose a significant risk to human health and the environment, and of sites where certain activities have been carried out (landfills, airports, ports, military sites, activities covered by the IPPC Directive, etc.). The proposal contains a list of these potentially polluting activities.

When these sites are sold and the transaction is made, the owner or potential buyer must submit a report to the competent national authorities and the other party on the state of the soil. This report is produced by an authorised body or a person authorised by the Member State.

Member States must then remediate * the polluted sites in line with a national strategy setting out the priorities. Where it is not possible for the person responsible to sustain the cost of remedying the site, the Member State concerned must make provisions for the appropriate financing.

Awareness raising and exchange of information

The proposal for a Directive also provides for Member States to raise public awareness on the importance of soil protection and for them to ensure that the public can participate in preparing, amending and reassessing programmes of measures on risk areas and National Remediation Strategies.

Member States must send the Commission a set of specific data including the list of risk areas, programmes of measures and their National Remediation Strategies.

The Commission also plans to set up a platform for the exchange of information between Member States and stakeholders on risk area identification and on risk assessment methodologies.


Member States and EU institutions must integrate soil concerns into sectoral policies that have a significant impact on soil, especially agriculture, regional development, transport and research.

In particular the Commission plans to review current legislation, such as the Directive on Sewage Sludge and the Directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC). It will assess whether there are any synergies between the current strategy and the Water Framework Directive and with the Thematic Strategy for the Marine Environment.


The Commission underlines the importance of pursuing research to close the gaps in knowledge about soil and to strengthen the basis of policies, in particular for soil biodiversity.

The seventh Framework Programme for research and technological development (2007-2013) contains a chapter on support for research into soil functions and soil protection.

The need for soil protection

Soil is generally defined as the top layer of the earth’s crust. It is a very dynamic system which performs many functions * and is vital to human activities and to the survival of ecosystems. As soil formation and regeneration is an extremely slow process, soil is considered a non-renewable resource.

The main degradation processes to which EU soil is subject are erosion, decline in organic matter, contamination, salinisation, compaction, decline in biodiversity, sealing, floods and landslides.

Soil degradation is a serious problem in Europe. It is driven or exacerbated by human activity such as inadequate agricultural and forestry practices, industrial activities, tourism, urban and industrial sprawl and construction works.

The impact of this includes loss of soil fertility, carbon and biodiversity, lower water-retention capacity, disruption of gas and nutrient cycles and reduced degradation of contaminants. Soil degradation has a direct impact on water and air quality, biodiversity and climate change. It can also impair the health of European citizens and threaten food and feed safety.

The impact analysis carried out in line with Commission guidelines using available data shows that soil degradation could cost up to EUR 38 billion per year.


Soil has not, to date, been subject to a specific protection policy at EU level. Provisions for soil protection are spread across many areas, either under environmental protection or other policy areas such as agriculture and rural development. However these provisions do not ensure a sufficient level of soil protection as their objectives and scope differ widely.

Coordinated action at European level is needed given that the state of soil influences other environmental and food safety aspects governed at EU level, and given the risks of distortions of the internal market linked to remedying polluted sites, the potential for cross-border impacts and the international dimension of the problem.

This strategy is one of the seven thematic strategies under the Sixth Environmental Action Programme adopted in 2002. It is based on a comprehensive study and widespread consultation of the general public and stakeholders.

Key terms used in the act
  • Soil functions: the main functions are to provide a physical and cultural environment for humans and human activity, to produce biomass (for food etc.) and raw material, storage, to filter and transform nutrients, substances and water, hosting biodiversity (habitats, species, etc.), to act as a carbon pool and to store the geological and archaeological heritage.
  • Remediation: actions on the soil to remove, control, contain or reduce pollutants so that the contaminated site no longer poses any significant risk to human health or the environment, taking account of its current use and approved future use.

References And Procedure

Proposal Official Journal Procedure

COM(2006) 232