Air Clean Up

  •  New policy package to clean up Europe's air

 New policy package to clean up Europe's air

Dec 18 2013 Read 1012 Times

Poor air quality is the number one environmental cause of premature death in the EU with a toll that outstrips road traffic accidents.

In 2010, more than 400 000 people are estimated to have died prematurely from air pollution in the EU, and almost two-thirds of the EU land area was exposed to excess nutrient above safe levels. Air pollution can also damage materials and buildings, and some air pollutants behave like greenhouse gases that cause climate change. The economic cost of the health impacts alone is huge, estimated at EUR 330-940 billion (3-9% of EU GDP).

The Commission is responding with new measures to reduce air pollution, adopted today. The clean air policy package updates existing legislation and further reduces harmful emissions from industry, traffic, energy plants and agriculture, with a view to reducing their impact on human health and the environment. Air pollution causes also lost working days, and high healthcare costs, with vulnerable groups such as children, asthmatics and the elderly the worst affected. It also damages ecosystems through excess nitrogen pollution (eutrophication) and acid rain. The direct costs to society from air pollution, including damage to crops and buildings, amount to about €23 billion per year. The benefits to people's health from implementing the package are around €40 billion a year, over 12 times the costs of pollution abatement, which are estimated to reach € 3.4 billion per year in 2030.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "The air we breathe today is much cleaner than in past decades. But air pollution is still an 'invisible killer' and it prevents many people from living a fully active life. The actions we are proposing will halve the number of premature deaths from air pollution, increase protection for the vulnerable groups who need it most, and improve quality of life for all. It's also good news for nature and fragile ecosystems, and it will boost the clean technology industry – an important growth sector for Europe."

Health Commissioner Tonio Borg added: “I wholeheartedly welcome the adoption of the clean air package which sets Europe on the right track to achieve clean air for all in the long term. The new air policy will translate into Europeans living healthier and longer lives: fewer children developing asthma or other respiratory problems, fewer people suffering from cancer, chronic respiratory diseases or cardiovascular diseases and finally fewer people dying from what air pollution does to people's health.

These health benefits alone will save society €40-140 billion in external costs and provide about €3 billion in direct benefits due to higher productivity of the workforce, lower healthcare costs, higher crop yields and less damage to buildings. The proposal will also add the equivalent of around 100 000 additional jobs due to increased productivity and competitiveness because of fewer workdays lost. It is estimated to have a positive net impact on economic growth.

The proposal is based on the conclusions of a comprehensive review of existing EU air policy. It comes after extensive consultations that found broad support for EU-wide action in this area. 

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