Time extension for Europe to clean up its air is “unacceptable”

Tougher targets needed with air pollution responsible for the death of 1,000 people a year in London alone

Brussels, 9th October 2007 — Member States were given an “unacceptable” extension of two years to achieve targets for the most harmful air pollutants in a vote in the European Parliament today, said Deputy Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, Sir Robert Atkins MEP.

He also expressed his disappointment at the adoption of an amendment to the report on cleaner air for Europe that could restrict action taken to improve air quality by weakening the burden of proof necessary.

Last month the UK was found in breach of sulphur dioxide levels and received a written warning from the European Commission for failing to meet its legal obligations on air quality.

The admission was forced from Labour only following a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Campaign for Clean Air in London. The cross-party campaign is pressing the Commission, which can now issue a final warning before considering taking the UK to the European Court of Justice, for further action.

In the Environment Committee today, MEPs did however vote to reduce the limit value for PM10 (an air pollutant that easily enters the lungs) to 33 micrograms/m2 from 40 micrograms/m2, although the limit value for the most harmful pollutant, PM2.5, was only dropped to 20 micrograms/m2 from 25 micrograms/m2.

Amendments from Conservatives to further safeguard children’s health were also adopted.

Sir Robert said:

“We are very disappointed with a number of the air quality votes today. Although the Parliament adopted a lower figure on the most harmful air pollutant, we would have liked a more ambitious target, and Member States have been given an unacceptable time extension to achieve standards for PM2.5.

“Air pollution has a major health and environmental impact in the UK, it is responsible for the death of 1,000 people in London each year and it shortens lives by an average of eight months. Respiratory and cardiovascular side-effects lead to increased hospital admissions, extra medication, millions of lost working days each year and hundreds of thousands of premature deaths.”

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