Tackling climate change will improve Europe's air quality, cut premature deaths and could save 10 billion EUR annually in air pollution control costs by 2030, a new EEA report says.

The EU Thematic Strategy on air pollution seeks to 'clean' Europe's air by 2020. The European Environment Agency (EEA) has analysed improvement prospects for a further ten year period, also integrating climate change instruments as an intervening variable.

In a recent report, the Agency stresses the positive side-effect of climate change policies on the effectiveness of existing air pollution abatement. Whereas these measures are supposed to produce cleaner air in 2030 compared to 2000, the situation is expected to decline after 2020, thus causing 311 000 premature death each year in 2030. This scenario can be attenuated, if not avoided, by EU efforts to meet meeting its long-term EU climate change objectives – i.e. to limit global mean temperature increase to 2°C above industrial levels. Struggling to achieve this target would substantially reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, which in turn would lead to a significant cut in air pollutant emissions.

The ancillary benefits of climate change policies would lie in: - a reduction of costs of controlling air pollutant emissions (about €10 billion per year); - a fall in damage to public health (more than 20 000 fewer premature death per year) and ecosystems. Such benefits would be more significant in 2030 than in 2020, the report notes. In any case, these are realistic prospects only if political will still is the norm in the fight for air quality. Further targeted air pollution measures are therefore needed, applying to both land-based and non land-based sectors of the economy. The EEA Report comes as 190 states are entering talks on global warming and on the future of the Kyoto Protocol at a UNFCCC conference from 15 to 26 May in Bonn(Germany).