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Clean Air

Clean air is essential to our health and to the environment. But since the industrial revolution, the quality of the air we breathe has deteriorated considerably - mainly as a result of human activities. Rising industrial and energy production, the burning of fossil fuels and biomass, as well as the dramatic rise in traffic on our roads all contribute to air pollution in our towns and cities which, in turn, can lead to serious problems for both health and the environment.

The human toll for poor air quality is worse than for road traffic accidents, making it the number one environmental cause of premature death in the EU, with over 390 000 premature deaths every year. It also impacts on quality of life by causing or exacerbating asthma and respiratory problems. Air pollution causes lost working days, and high healthcare costs, with vulnerable groups such as children, asthmatics and the elderly the worst affected. It damages ecosystems through excess nitrogen pollution (eutrophication) and acid rain.

To counter this, the European Union has set itself the goal to achieve levels of air quality that do not give rise to significant negative impacts on, and risks to, human health and the environment. Since the early 1970s, the EU has been working to improve air quality by controlling emissions of harmful substances into the atmosphere, improving fuel quality, and by integrating environmental protection requirements into the transport and energy sectors.

As a result, much progress has been made in tackling air pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, lead, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and benzene. Yet, and despite the progress made to date, poor air quality continues to cause serious and avoidable problems. As a step towards improving air quality, the European Commission adopted in 2013 a Clean Air Policy Package, including a Clean Air Programme for Europe setting objectives for 2020 and 2030, and accompanying legislative measures.

In 2018, The Commission adopted a Communication "A Europe that protects: Clean air for all' that provides national, regional and local actors with practical help to improve air quality in Europe

Via this website, you can find more information on what the European Union is doing to reduce national air pollution emissions as well as air pollution from the main sources, and thus improve air quality.

Highlights 2021

  • Air Quality: Revision of EU Rules
    As part of the European Green Deal, the EU is revising the Ambient Air Quality Directive, to align air quality standards more closely with the recommendations of the World Health Organization. An Inception Impact Assessment outlines the approach towards Commission adoption planned for the second half of 2022. For updates, please also see here.
  • Third EU Clean Air Forum
    On 18 and 19 November 2021, the third EU Clean Air Forum took place in Madrid (Spain). The Forum focused on six topics. It reflected specifically on the zero pollution challenge; on engagement with cities and citizens; on linking clean air and economic recovery; on air pollution and climate change; on access to justice and the right to clean air; and on the revision of the Ambient Air Quality Directives.
  • Second Clean Air Outlook
    This report presents an analysis of the prospects for the air pollution situation in the EU up to 2030 and beyond. It updates the analysis presented in the First Clean Air Outlook published 2018, in particular by including the measures put forward by Member States in their National Air Pollution Control Programmes and by taking into account the increased ambition level for fighting climate change.

Highlights 2020

Highlights 2019

Highlights 2018

Highlights 2017

  • Fitness check of the EU Ambient Air Quality Directives (Roadmap)
    This fitness check will look at the performance of the two complementary EU Ambient Air Quality (AAQ) Directives (Directives 2008/50/EC and 2004/107/EC). The findings of the fitness check will be used to inform further reflections on whether the AAQ Directives are fit for purpose and continue to provide the appropriate legislative framework to ensure protection from adverse impacts on, and risks to, human health and the environment.
  • EU Clean Air Forum
    The inaugural Clean Air Forum on 16 and 17 November 2017 in Paris provided an occasion for decision makers and stakeholders to share knowledge and assist in the implementation of European, national and local air policies. The Forum focused on three areas: air quality in cities; agriculture and air quality; and clean air business opportunities.
  • European Air Quality Index
    The European Environment Agency now offers an Air Quality Index that allows citizens to monitor air quality in real time.
  • Brochure on lower-cost sensors for measuring air quality
    The Joint Research Centre published a brochure that summarizes which types of sensors are currently available and gives an overview of their advantages and disadvantages.


The Commission is in the process of updating some of the content on this website in the light of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. If the site contains content that does not yet reflect the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, it is unintentional and will be addressed.