The 2013 edition of Green Week, the largest annual conference on European environmental policy, has taken place in Brussels. Following last year’s water theme, this year’s event focused on air quality, primarily because of the upcoming completion of a review of the EU’s 2005 Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution (TSAP), which began in 2011. Read more…
Green Week provides an opportunity for policymakers, experts, regulators and representatives from industry and civil society to discuss progress on environmental issues and share experiences and best practice. With the Commission’s review of the TSAP due for completion in autumn 2013, this year’s conference considered ways to improve air quality standards and the future development of a European policy framework.
The opening session was told that despite significant improvements in reductions of emissions from industry, transport and energy, more still needs to be done. Several air quality standards have been widely exceeded in some of Europe’s most densely populated areas, especially from pollutants such as particulate matter, ground-level ozone, and nitrogen dioxide. The conference heard that urban air pollution is set to overtake dirty water and sanitation as the world’s biggest environmental cause of premature deaths. It also generates high economic costs linked to hospital admissions, lost working days and damage to ecosystems through eutrophication and acidification.
The European Commissioner for Environment, Janez Potočnik, told delegates that Europe must engineer a transition to a more sustainable growth model, where economic growth is decoupled from resource use. He said that air quality was a good case in point as it was one of the few areas that had seen an absolute decoupling between economic growth and emissions. The Commissioner listed four key objectives for future improvements to air quality: full compliance with existing policies; setting clear targets beyond 2020; proposing an effective combination of measures to achieve the targets; and opening up opportunities for European businesses in the pollution abatement technology and services markets.
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