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The EU greenlights stricter air pollution rules to protect citizens’ health, thanks to S&Ds


21 Feb 2024


Climate & Environment

The European Parliament and the EU Council have reached an agreement on stricter rules to combat air pollution, the largest environmental threat to human health resulting in a staggering 300,000 premature deaths annually within the European Union. Poor air quality contributes to a spectrum of illnesses, including heart attacks, strokes, respiratory issues, diabetes, dementia, and lung cancer. Leading the negotiations on the revised Ambient Air Quality Directive, S&Ds secured an ambitious law that will introduce stricter air quality standards, enhance monitoring, improve public information, and better protect citizens against air pollution.*

Javi López, S&D MEP and European Parliament’s chief negotiator on the revision of the Ambient Air Quality Directive, said:

“Each year, air pollution takes an inadmissible toll across Europe. Today’s agreement signals a departure from outdated air quality standards, some of which are 15 to 20 years old. Beyond a mere regulatory update, this revision, spearheaded by the S&D Group, shows our commitment and underscores our unwavering dedication to safeguarding lives and enhancing the overall well-being of our citizens.

“Our focus has been on improving air quality monitoring in proximity to major pollution sources, reinforcing safeguards for sensitive and vulnerable populations, and ensuring that local authorities receive the necessary support to enforce these crucial standards effectively.”

Tiemo Wölken, S&D co-ordinator for the environment committee, said:

“The effects of air pollution are most drastic amongst working-class European citizens who cannot easily move out to the suburbs or afford air filters. It is our common responsibility to make our air safe for all, from our children to our elderly.

“Municipalities and industries need clear goals and roadmaps. This ambitious directive gives them certainty that citizens’ well-being and public health must prevail. And if local authorities fail to deliver, victims of air pollution will be able to take legal action and claim for compensation.”

This provisional agreement still needs to be confirmed through the final adoption by the European Parliament and the EU Council.

* S&Ds have been pivotal in making air quality monitoring across Europe more effective, introducing the concept of ‘air pollution hotspots’ to ensure that air pollution is monitored in areas where the population is exposed to significant pollution sources. Our group also strengthened the provisions on public information and the protection of the most sensitive populations and vulnerable groups through the expansion of information thresholds to other pollutants not covered by current legislation. Another key victory for the group is the introduction of the right to compensation for individuals adversely affected by air pollution.