EU Commission plans for more ambitious national caps on emissions of six key pollutants, including NOx, particulates and sulphur dioxide, were endorsed by Parliament on Wednesday. Air pollution causes about 400,000 premature deaths in the EU yearly, and the plans could save up to €40bn in air pollution costs by 2030.

“Air pollution imposes enormous human and economic costs. It also damages the natural environment, through eutrophication and acid deposition, and it doesn’t stop at EU member states’ borders”, said lead MEP Julie Girling (ECR, UK). Her report was approved by a show of hands.

“This legislation will help at all levels of governance in the member states, including the regional and sub-regional authorities who have engaged so vigorously in the process. There is a real bottom-up demand for action”, she added.

“My report also pushes the Commission to ensure that the Real Drive Emissions (RDE) procedure is agreed on as soon as possible. We all agree that NOx must be dealt with urgently. The public are demanding action in this area following the recent revelations on the car industry”, she concluded.

More ambitious caps

MEPs approved the proposed caps for sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC), methane (CH4) ammonia (NH3), and fine particulates (PM, less than 2.5 micrometers), to be achieved by 2020 and 2030, as proposed by the Commission.

MEPs want the future national emission ceiling (NEC) directive to contribute to the reduction of mercury emissions in the Union, but an impact assessment should be carried out before national emission reduction commitments are determined.

Car emissions

The Commission and the member should immediately agree on the new Real Driving Emissions (RDE) regulation proposal currently under consideration, to ensure that all EU-source-based air pollution policies are fit for purpose, say MEPs.

Tackling emissions from international shipping

MEPs also voted to remove a Commission proposal for flexibility to allow member states to offset reductions in emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxides and particulate matter from international shipping..

Instead, the Commission should consider measures to reduce emissions from international shipping, particularly in member states’ territorial waters and exclusive economic zones, and, if appropriate, submit a legislative proposal to this end, MEPs say.

Next steps

MEPs will now enter into negotiations with the Council of Ministers with a view to reaching a first-reading agreement.

Please, read the press release here