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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 Europe, 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 next 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 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 2019

  • Second EU Clean Air Forum
    The Clean Air Forum 2019 took place on 28 and 29 November in Bratislava. The main themes for the event were air quality and health, air quality and heating, air quality and agriculture, as well as clean air funding mechanisms. The event concluded with a discussion on the future of EU clean air policy.
  • Fitness check of the EU Ambient Air Quality Directives
    The results of the fitness check were published in November 2019.
  • First National Air Pollution Control Programmes
    To be submitted by Member States by 1 April 2019, in line with Directive 2016/2284 (National Emission Ceilings).
  • First data on air pollution impacts on ecosystems
    To be submitted by Member States by 1 July 2019, in line with Directive 2016/2284 (National Emission Ceilings).

Highlights 2018

  • Adoption of the Report on the implementation and compliance with the sulphur standards for marine fuels set out by Directive (EU) 2016/802

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 Outlook
  • This report provides an update of the impact assessment analysis to track progress towards the objectives of the National Emission Ceilings Directive.

  • 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.