European Commissioner for Environment Karmenu Vella has invited ministers from nine member states to convene in Brussels, Belgium, today (30 January) to find solutions to the serious problem of air pollution in the European Union.
The nine member states are Germany, Spain, Italy, France, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom, all of whom face infringement procedures for exceeding agreed air pollution limits.
The meeting will give an opportunity to member states to prove that additional adequate steps will be taken to redress current situations and comply with European law.
Protecting citizens from poor air quality
Vella said: “This meeting on air quality has been called for three reasons: to protect citizens; to clarify that if there is no improvement of air quality there are legal consequences; and to remind member states that this step is at the end of a long, some would say too long, period of offers to help, advice given, and warnings made.
“Our first responsibility as the commission is to the millions of Europeans – young and old, sick and healthy – who suffer from poor air quality.
“Parents of a child suffering from bronchitis or a daughter of someone with pulmonary disease want to see improvements in air quality as soon as possible. For them, action plans with a 10-12 year timescale or ineffective plans are useless.”
Helping comply with emission limits
The commission wants to co-operate with member states to help them comply with the emission limits, which they have agreed to respect and which guarantee citizens’ health.
Poor air quality is responsible for more than 400,000 premature deaths every year in Europe, and is also a cause of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
President Jean-Claude Juncker said in his State of the Union address in 2016 that bad air quality costs the European economy €20bn a year in increased medical costs and reduced worker productivity.
The air quality ministerial summit will make sure that effective measures are taken and implemented without delay.
Legal action will be pursued if adequate measures are not taken.