Air pollution still a 'problem' in EU

15th October 2012


Related Topics

Related tags

  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Prevention & Control ,
  • Reporting ,
  • Mitigation ,
  • EU



European environment commissioner Janez Potočnik has admitted that the EU is "some way" from meeting its air quality goals, after the European Environment Agency (EEA) revealed that up to 30% of those living in EU cities are exposed to pollution levels that exceed the current legal limits

In its latest report on air quality, the EEA confirms that concentrations of harmful pollutants, including particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone, are above EU designated safe limits in many of the bloc’s cities.

Pollution limits set out in the Ambient Air Quality Directive (2008/50/EC) are being “widely exceeded”, states the report, with 16%–30% of the EU’s urban population breathing air containing too much PM10.

The report also reveals that 22 of the bloc’s 27 member states exceeded NO2 limits in 2010, leaving 11% of Europe’s sensitive ecosystems at risk of acidification and 69% at risk of eutrophication.

Potočnik believes member states have to shoulder much of the blame. “They have insisted on flexibility in applying air quality legislation. This has, unfortunately, not led to better implementation. Too often, the response has been too late,” he said.

“Some still argue that in times of severe economic hardship, air pollution measures are too costly. I would argue that air pollution itself imposes much greater costs on the economy. If you consider all costs, including natural capital accounting, clean air is an investment that makes a lot of economic sense.”

The European Commission is undertaking a wholesale review of its air quality policies in a bid to replicate the success it has had in cutting sulphur dioxide emissions – which halved during 2001–2010. The results of the review are to be published next autumn and Potočnik has pledged to work with member states on how to meet pollution limits.

At the same time, Defra has confirmed that it plans to lobby for amendments to the Directive, in particular the NO2 limits, which the UK has failed to meet in 40 areas and which the environment department argues are too costly.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

EU and UK citizens fear net-zero delivery deficit

Support for net zero remains high across the UK and the EU, but the majority of citizens don't believe that major emitters and governments will reach their climate targets in time.

16th May 2024

Read more

There is strong support for renewable energy as a source of economic growth among UK voters, particularly among those intending to switch their support for a political party.

16th May 2024

Read more

Taxing the extraction of fossil fuels in the world’s most advanced economies could raise $720bn (£575bn) by 2030 to support vulnerable countries facing climate damages, analysis has found.

2nd May 2024

Read more

The largest-ever research initiative of its kind has been launched this week to establish a benchmark for the private sector’s contribution to the UK’s 2050 net-zero target.

2nd May 2024

Read more

Weather-related damage to homes and businesses saw insurance claims hit a record high in the UK last year following a succession of storms.

18th April 2024

Read more

The Scottish government has today conceded that its goal to reduce carbon emissions by 75% by 2030 is now “out of reach” following analysis by the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

18th April 2024

Read more

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has issued a statement clarifying that no changes have been made to its stance on offsetting scope 3 emissions following a backlash.

16th April 2024

Read more

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close