New air pollution limits could prevent thousands of premature deaths

01-Jul-2016 @ 14:30

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Ambitious targets to reduce air pollution and cut premature deaths by around 50 per cent have been provisionally agreed by the EU.

The so-called NEC Directive, which Conservative MEP Julie Girling has been leading on for the European Parliament for three years, sets national limits for five key pollutants covering areas such as agriculture, power generation and vehicle emissions.

Under the provisional agreement, which will be officially approved by the European Parliament later this year, EU limits will be aligned with international commitments for 2020 and EU Member States would have to work towards hitting stricter targets by 2030. The UK's involvement depends on the forthcoming Brexit negotiations but, whatever the outcome, Britain will benefit from a reduction in pollution drift from the continent.

Ms Girling, MEP for South West England and Gibraltar, pointed out that air pollution imposed enormous human and economic costs.

"It is estimated that poor air quality is a factor in 400,000 premature deaths per year across the EU," she said. "Air pollution does not stop at national borders. It damages the environment, infrastructure and the economy in general. Individual countries cannot tackle this problem alone.

"This is an urgent public health crisis and I am very pleased to have struck an agreement during the Dutch presidency of the EU to reduce health impacts by around 50 per cent by 2030."

Pollutants covered by the agreement are sulphur dioxide, which is typically emitted by coal fired power stations, volatile organic compounds and ammonia, both a result of agricultural production, and nitrogen oxides and fine particulate matter, which are contained in vehicle emissions.

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