Health benefits from national clean air measures could be up to €43bn per year

This shows the second outlook report, published by the Commission

The health benefits brought by the national air pollution control measures amount to between €8bn and €43bn per year for the EU. This shows the Second Clean Air Outlook report, which presents the prospects for reducing air pollution in the EU up to 2030 and beyond. The report was published by the Commission on Friday.

According to the analysis the number of premature deaths due to air pollution could be reduced by around 55% in 2030 compared to 2005, if Member States implemented all measures agreed and announced under the existing EU legislation regulating sources of air pollution and limiting climate change.

The report also stresses that more could be done, as there are still plenty of measures for reducing air pollution that would bring more benefits than costs to society.

The authors of the report underline that the analysis undertaken for this Clean Air Outlook could not yet incorporate the impact on air pollutants from a projected slowdown in economic activity due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It should be noted that impacts on reduction of emissions of certain pollutants were unequal during the lockdown periods and that overall emissions might return to previous levels when the economy recovers, they say.

This report sends a clear message that further reducing air pollution would save more lives, reduce pressure on ecosystems and it makes economic sense, commented Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Oceans.

This is the approach we are taking with the European Green Deal and our Zero Pollution ambition, the Commissioner said noting that it is paramount that all Member States fully implement the agreed and planned measures and step up efforts to tackle emissions.

The report updates the analysis of the First Clean Air Outlook, in particular by including the measures put forward by Member States in their National Air Pollution Control Programmes and an increased level of ambition to fight climate change. It feeds into the preparation of the Zero Pollution Action Plan, contributing to the European Green Deal objective to protect, conserve and enhance the EU's natural capital, and protect the health and well-being of citizens from environment-related risks and impacts.

The report shows that with the full implementation of all existing legislation, most Member States would be on track to fulfil the 2030 reduction commitments for four out of the five air pollutants regulated under the National Emission reduction Commitments (NEC) Directive, namely sulphur dioxides, nitrogen oxides, non-methane volatile organic compounds and fine particulate matter.

The additional clean air measures announced in the National Air Pollution Control Programmes would accelerate further the projected improvements. However, these measures would not be enough to reduce ammonia emissions, which originate at 90% from the agricultural sector, to maximum permitted levels, as fifteen Member States would still have to urgently take actions beyond those announced in their national programmes.

The Second Clean Air Outlook shows that the clean air measures examined bring net benefits to society, with the benefits of these measures always overriding their costs, and contributing to boosting GDP in the long run. These benefits increase with more ambitious clean air and climate actions, highlighting the synergies of these two policies. 

If all adopted clean air and climate legislation were fully implemented, the proportion of the EU population living in areas satisfying the current WHO Guidelines for fine particulate matter could more than double between 2015 and 2030, the report shows.

Nonetheless, this would still leave at least 12% of the EU population in 2030 exposed to levels of fine particulate matter above the current WHO Guidelines value.

With the most ambitious possible clean air policy, this share would be reduced to 4%. However, even under this scenario, almost half of EU Natura 2000 areas would still be threatened by eutrophication due to air pollution.

The authors of the report recommend that as even relatively low levels of exposure to air pollution are harmful to human health and to ecosystems, there is a need to reinforce efforts at all levels - Member States, regional and international levels, to reduce air pollution.


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