European Parliament’s Air Quality Directive Update

This Wednesday, the European Parliament will vote on the revision of the Air Quality Directive. The current European limit values are far too lax and very far from the guide values published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in September 2021. The ambition of this revision must be to align with the values defined by science in order to protect the health of all and save many lives.

Last June, Parliament’s Environment Committee adopted a text which increased the ambition of the text proposed by the European Commission in October 2021 and focused on improving air quality by following WHO recommendations. A vote that is both pragmatic and reassuring.

Acting would cost 5 times less than suffering the effects of air pollution, according to the impact study carried out by the European Commission to accompany this revision of two current directives, dating from 2008 and 2004 and based on knowledge that is now outdated. The proposed revision is therefore a win-win strategy which should be voted with enthusiasm by European MEPs to improve the quality of life and health of all Europeans, but also that of biodiversity and ecosystems. However, for this vote in plenary, numerous amendments were tabled by conservative, right-wing, far-right and even Renew (Renaissance) deputies, aiming to undermine the ambition of the text to protect financial health of the biggest polluters.

On the contrary, it is essential that Parliament votes on the text proposed by the Environment Committee, which will protect the health of citizens as well as public finances. In France, air pollution from PM2.5 particles causes 40,000 deaths per year, which represents 7% of total mortality. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is responsible for 7,000 deaths per year according to Santé Publique France. Poor air quality costs 100 billion euros per year in France, according to a Senate commission of inquiry report, in health costs of course, but also for the economy, with a drop in agricultural yields. and loss of productivity due to air pollution-related illnesses. This represents a cost of €1,470/inhabitant/year!

Weakening this text would mean agreeing with the largest industrial lobbies, sacrificing many lives and continuing to siphon off significant public funds solely to repair the damage caused by air pollution.

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