MEPs and cities call for strong air quality package

  • environment

At ‘cleaner air in our cities’ on 28 January, MEPs and cities called for a strong NEC Directive to clean up our air.

Our debate on ‘cleaner air in our cities’ was a chance for MEPs and cities to push for a strong National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive to clean up our air. The event, hosted by Julie Girling MEP, rapporteur on the NEC Directive, took place in the European Parliament on 28 January.

The NEC Directive was one of a number of proposals due to be axed by the new Commission as part of its goal to cut red tape and deliver ‘better regulation’ in its 2015 work programme, presented on 16 December. Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the Commission, has since clarified that the directive will not be withdrawn but that the Commission wants to introduce modifications within the usual legislative process.

The debate therefore came at a critical point for the future of Europe’s air quality, and for the health and wellbeing of our citizens. Speaking at the event, Julie Girling said that “now that the Commission’s proposal is staying on the table, Parliament can push for the solid directive we need”. We consider a strong NEC Directive to be essential for better regulation, as the NEC Directive needs to be better coordinated with other air quality legislation, notably the Ambient Air Quality Directive. According to an impact assessment commissioned by the Parliament following the agreement by EU leaders of the 2030 climate and energy goals, these goals should make achieving the proposed NEC targets €5.5bn cheaper each year.

The NEC Directive sets maximum limits for specific pollutants that are harmful to our health and the environment in each member state. With many of the sources of local air pollution beyond cities’ control, setting these targets at national level would support local efforts to clean up the air. Reducing emissions in each member state would also limit the amount of pollution that travels long distances and across borders.  

Lot van Hooijdonk, deputy mayor of Utrecht for transport and mobility, energy and environment, and chair of our environment forum, used the event as an opportunity to call for member states to “step up their air quality measures to support local actions”.

The event also included a panel discussion between the rapporteur and shadow rapporteurs of the NEC Directive; Marianne Wenning, director, European Commission DG Environment; and Lot van Hooijdonk, on the NEC Directive and its role in cleaning up the air in our cities. 

Photo: Denis Erroyaux