Air quality stays, but waste goes

6th February 2015


It's been a turbulent few weeks in Brussels. Just before Christmas the European commission published its work programme for 2015, which set out its priorities for the next year.

It’s been a turbulent few weeks in Brussels. Just before Christmas the European commission published its work programme for 2015, which set out its priorities for the next year.

Normally this would be a pretty straightforward process, but what has made this particularly significant is the new commission’s decision to drop or modify pieces of legislation proposed by the previous administration. These include vital new air pollution limits as well as the waste package, which sets out targets to increase recycling and tighten the rules on landfill and incineration, and help shift Europe towards a more circular economy.

Before going ahead with the withdrawals, the commission said it would consult the European parliament. So the pressure was on when, earlier this month, MEPs began to debate a resolution on the work programme. In the end, centre-right and Conservative MEPs refused to table a joint resolution, which left the parliament bereft of a strong and united position. However, like-minded MEPs did team up to vote in favour of key amendments, criticising the withdrawal of these key pieces of environmental legislation.

Finally, the commission backed down and is no longer proposing to drop the air quality law, which will now continue as planned. As one of
the lead negotiators on this legislation, I’ll be fighting for tough national limits that force governments to tackle this silent killer.

However, the bad news is that despite strong objections from ministers and MEPs, the commission is going ahead with its withdrawal of the waste package. It claims that this proposal will be replaced by something more ambitious by the end of 2015. But many, including myself, are unconvinced. If the aim is to improve this piece of legislation, why not leave that to MEPs and the council?

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