Council reaches Political Agreement on Air Quality Directive
Publication date: 23 October 2006
The Council reached a political agreement on the new directive (COM(2005) 447) on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe today in Luxembourg in the first formal Environment Council under the Finnish presidency.
com2005_447_cafe.pdf (352 KB)
"This is a very clear signal to the European citizens of our commitment to combat air pollution and the related health risks. At the same time we do recognize that this is the first step of a continuing process and that further efforts are needed to reduce emissions and to reach long-term air quality objectives throughout the Community", stresses the President of the Council, Mr Jan-Erik Enestam, the Finnish Minister for the Environment.
The major new element in the directive is the introduction of a binding limit value (25 g/m3) on airborne concentrations of harmful fine dust particles (known as PM2.5), which contribute to the premature death of around 350,000 people in the EU each year. The member states should implement this limit value no later than in the beginning of the year 2015. The directive also sets national PM2,5 exposure reduction targets for the years 2010-2020. In the most polluted areas the reduction target for the years 2010-2020 will be 20 percent. For areas where the air quality is better the target will be lower. Specific targets for individual Member States will be defined later and they shall be based on actual measured concentrations at urban background areas, which are representative of the exposure of the general population.
The Directive allows a certain amount of flexibility related to the attainment of the limit values, where the Member States have taken all reasonable measures to implement the Community legislation but are nevertheless unable to comply with air quality standards in certain places. Such derogations are limited to PM10 limit values, nitrogen dioxide and benzene and they may only be granted under strict conditions for a limited period of time. Relating to PM10 limit values there is the possibility for a three year extension time from the entry into force of the new Directive. For nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and benzene the extension period is five years.
It is important to support the implementation of the Air Quality Directive and the attainment of the air quality objectives with sufficient emission control measures at the local, national and Community level. In the Council meeting the Commission announced that it will propose new limit values for heavy duty vehicles (Euro VI) next year and that the Euro 6 limit values for passenger cars will be included in the Euro 5 directive currently under discussion in the Council and European Parliament. The Commission also promised to come up with other relevant legislative initiatives.
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