Air quality: cities are counting on ambitious and binding targets

  • environment

Action to improve air quality in cities must be complemented by strong legislation at European level, says EUROCITIES.

EUROCITIES makes several urgent calls to the Council of Ministers as trilogue negotiations on the National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive draw to a close. In a letter addressed to Sharon Dijksma, Dutch minister for the environment and president of the Environment Council, published on 30 May, we call for:

  • Binding targets for 2025 to make real progress on improving urban air quality by 2030. These targets can be achieved cost-effectively, according to a European Commsision impact assessment report (p.70).  

  • Ambitious targets to support the European Commission and Parliament's proposals for a 52% improvement in public health. 

  • Greater control of PM2.5 and ammonia emissions, as these are some of the most harmful to human health and particularly affect cities. 

  • Flexibilities should be kept to a minimum, especially those concerning source emissions. These can undermine member states' efforts to comply with the directive. Emissions need to be reduced at source, and member states need incentives to implement effective legislation to address key emissions sources. The rapid introduction of real driving emissions (RDE) testing to support Euro 6 emissions standards is essential for cleaner air in cities. 

Anna Lisa Boni, EUROCITIES secretary general, said: 

"This legislation is crucial for improving local air quality. Air pollution is the most important environmental health problem in Europe and cities, where over 130 million European citizens live, are worst affected. We are counting on ambitious and binding targets to achieve the cleaner air we all deserve." 

The National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive sets upper limits for each member state on certain harmful pollutants. Member states can then decide how best they achieve these. The directive is currently being reviewed as part of the Clean Air Package. It is essential in supporting efforts by cities to clean up local air, as without proper action at national and European level their efforts are compromised.