Better air quality: cep welcomes balanced Commission proposal

Clean air is vital for people and the environment. That is why the EU wants to further reduce air pollution in Europe. While the Parliament wants to adopt the World Health Organisation's (WHO) strict guideline values one-to-one in the new Air Quality Directive, the Centre for European Policy (cep) considers the more moderate Commission proposal to be appropriate and realistic.


"The level of the limit values proposed by the Commission is a balanced compromise between health protection and other important aspects of social life," says cep environmental expert Martin Menner, who analysed the Commission proposal with cep lawyer Götz Reichert. According to Menner, the core issue is the extent to which the WHO air quality guidelines, which have been updated in 2021 and explicitly address only health issues, should be incorporated into EU law. According to the cep expert, other societal considerations also need to be taken into account. This is even the view of the WHO, which suggests that legal aspects, cost-benefit ratio, technological feasibility and socio-political considerations should be taken into account when setting specific limit values.


According to the cep's assessment, full alignment of EU limits with current WHO guidelines would lead to disproportionate costs or restrictions on public life, such as driving bans. "This is disproportionate to the foreseeable benefits," says cep lawyer Reichert. "Decarbonisation in industry and buildings and the EURO 6/VI standards for cars will not be fully effective until the mid-2030s." By then, the proposed limit values would often already have been almost achieved with the measures already in place. The new limit values should therefore be postponed until 2035. This would avoid costly additional reduction measures in the event of widespread exceedance of the limit values.