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News 24 April 2024

European Parliament approves pioneering air pollution rules for EU  

The EU’s revised Ambient Air Quality Directive (AAQD) has been formally adopted by the European Parliament. This vote will result in the EU setting one of the most progressive air quality regulatory frameworks in the world, leading the way for other countries to enact similar legislation.

Today the European Parliament formally approved a revision of the Ambient Air Quality Directive (AAQD). The Parliament passed the revision with 381 votes in favour, 225 against and 17 abstentions, paving the way for some of the most ambitious air pollution rules globally to become EU law.

The adoption of this agreement marks a critical milestone in the EU’s commitment to safeguarding the health of its citizens. The revised rules will better protect the environment from the effects of air pollution and mitigate adverse health outcomes, such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Another co-benefit is protecting our climate, given that pollutants and greenhouse gases often emitted from the same sources.

The agreement imposes stricter limits on harmful pollutants, including particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). These limits will see the EU align with the World Health Organization’s interim targets (IT4) by 2030, setting air quality standards that are ambitious and achievable. Regrettably, derogations are provided to allow member states to delay their compliance with the new targets until 2035, or 2040, but only under a set of strict circumstances.

To achieve these targets, this agreement will establish a comprehensive framework for effective air quality management that emphasises accountability, public engagement, and adaptive management based on scientific evidence. It also incorporates provisions for access to justice for individuals affected by air pollution, ensuring that citizens and NGOs can play an active role in monitoring and enforcing air quality standards. This reinforces the EU’s position as a global leader in environmental protection and public health advocacy.

The Clean Air Fund welcomes the European Parliament’s approval of the AAQD as an essential step towards dramatically improving the EU’s air quality. This will result in the EU setting one of the most ambitious air quality regulatory frameworks globally and will offer a beacon for other countries and blocs to enact similar legislation. While we regret the derogations demanded by EU member states, we are now calling for the Council’s swift formal adoption of the text and for member states to quickly implement this vital legislation.

Agata de Ru, Head of the EU at Clean Air Fund

Next steps

Following the successful adoption within the Parliament, the legislation will now proceed to the Environment Council, where EU environment ministers will give their final approval.

Clean air is a question of political will, not an individual or lifestyle choice. We’re delighted that MEPs have shown today their firm commitment to cleaning up air for hundreds of millions of people across the European Union. Now the confirmation of the AAQD package by member states should follow swiftly, so that we call all start profiting from the numerous health benefits the new law will bring, and to prevent further harm to health.

Anne Stauffer, Deputy Director of the Health and Environment Alliance

The Clean Air Fund commends this achievement and urges a swift formal adoption of the legislation at the Environment Council, so that we can begin to reap the benefits of cleaner air without delay.