The European Parliament debated today proposals for a revised National Emissions Ceiling (NEC) Directive to cap national emissions of air pollutants at the level of member states. The initial goal was to cut by half the number of premature deaths caused by air pollution – estimated as 400,000 a year in the EU – by 2030.

However the strong proposals by the European Parliament and the Commission were watered down by the Council, which represents governments of EU member states.

The proposals now include no caps for methane or mercury pollution, which contribute to ground level ozone, harmful to human health. The Council also succeeded in adding a large degree of flexibility for member states, making limits more difficult to enforce.

GUE/NGL MEP Kateřina Konečná, member of the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), criticised the compromises made during the negotiations with the Council:

“This report was a missed opportunity. The final text is a mere shadow of a much more ambitious text we had approved. The negotiations were influenced by a feeling of panic especially as it happened when the Brexit referendum results came out.”

“The biggest problem in this proposal for a revised National Emissions Ceiling (NEC) Directive is that our original goal was to diminish deaths from anthropogenic air pollution by 52 per cent compared to 2005 but the proposal was watered down to a reduction of 49.6 per cent. The Parliament’s red line should have been 50 per cent.”

“What’s behind these figures is the loss of human lives and many of these losses could have been prevented. This is without mentioning the other concessions made to Council,” Konečná lamented.

GUE/NGL MEP Eleonora Forenza agreed that the compromises were too many for the group to support:

“I believe that the right to clean air is a fundamental right just as the right to health.  My home region of Puglia sees 90 deaths per year as a result of emissions from the plant in Taranto. This case shows quite clearly that the issue we are talking about today is absolutely vital when it comes to people’s health. That is why we cannot go along with any type of compromise which will water down our air quality standards; we need binding targets for 2025.”

“This parliament is sending out a very clear message when it comes to the importance of air quality and its credibility is at stake,” the Italian MEP concluded.

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