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© Alberto Favaro

EC Representation in Malta

Protecting our health and environment
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22/01/2013 10:34:11

At a conference recently organised by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for Environment, announced that the European Union intends to review its air policy in the autumn.


    “We have just launched a public consultation on the possible options, and I encourage you all respond with your views. But some of the main lines are already fairly clear.

    Our emerging impact analysis shows that the prospects for widespread compliance in the next few years are good, based on full implementation of existing policies,. But there are two very important caveats. The first is that while this alleviates the need for local action, it doesn't eliminate it. There will still be cases of serious localised pollution, which only national measures can tackle.

    The second caveat is that compliance is crucially dependent on reducing real world emissions from diesel cars. I mentioned this above as the key example of a failure of source legislation affecting the achievement of our air quality objectives. By addressing the key issues such as the nature of the new road-test cycle and the timetable for introduction, we have an opportunity to put us back on the right path.

    Let us also be clear about the potential for further action. By applying existing technology on the widest possible scale, we can reduce health impacts by as much as 100.000 premature deaths a year, and eliminate a third of the eutrophication impact on Natura 2000 sites. Moreover, we can achieve 75% of the gain for 20% of the overall cost.

    We should also be more explicit about how our future policy will link with the forthcoming climate and energy policy for 2030. We need to set our targets so as to avoid short-term, expensive investments, when the same result could be obtained by the deep structural changes driven by the same policy. There is clear evidence that strong climate and energy policy will have positive impacts for air quality in the EU as a whole. It will generally reduce air pollution as well as the costs of air pollution control measures. But it is already clear that specific air pollution control measures are needed to complement any future climate and energy policy. Potential examples are regulation of particulate emissions from domestic combustion, non-road mobile machinery and transport, or ammonia reductions from agriculture.

    There are also the obvious synergies on reducing Short Lived Climate Pollutants which will simultaneously benefit health and limit climate change. An important starting point is to develop accurate emission inventories, so that we know what and how to measure. Methane is another pollutant that impacts both air (as a precursor to ozone) and climate change (a greenhouse gas). We have brought down emissions in the EU by some 30% over the last two decades, and we will look at the case for achieving further reductions.

    Acting now will bring significant cost savings in the public sector as well as cost savings for companies. The cost of lost working time in many parts of Europe can be very significant. So investing in clean air brings many economic and social benefits as well as environmental ones. There are also economic opportunities favouring an ambitious policy. Let's take the US and China as examples.

    Sustaining air quality is therefore not only an environmental objective, but also as an economic opportunity. As part of the review, I will be looking at how we can really create opportunities for innovation in the clean air sector, to support our industry to invest in clean technologies for clean air. This is a sector where many European companies are world leaders in an expanding market with potential to create new growth and new jobs.”

    A recent EU survey reveals that the Maltese consider air pollution from transport and industry as the most serious (59% and 48% of respondents respectively) with air pollution from energy pollution polling in a distant third at 33%. The Maltese think that the best ways to tackle these issues are to provide more information to the public (45%), to provide high financial incentives for low emitting products (33%) and to apply stricter controls on emissions from new cars and trucks.

    L-aħħar aġġornament: 22/01/2013  |Fuq