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January 15th, 2006:

Breathe easy

ssue: Jan 15, 2006

EU proposes cleaner air

EUROPE is set to regulate fine particles less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5 ) through a proposal put forward in the European parliament recently. This regulation is a part of the European Commission’s (EC) Clean Air Strategy — a plan to reduce the number of people dying from air pollution-related diseases by 2020 up to 40 per cent from the 2000 level.

“The strategy will substantially improve Europe’s air quality and prevent thousands of premature deaths from pollution-related illnesses and also reduce damage to crops, forests and other ecosystems,” EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said.

The proposal requires each member state to reduce average PM 2.5 concentration by 20 per cent between 2010 and 2020 with a mandatory cap of 25 mg per cubic metre in high pollution areas.

Estimated to cost about US $8.7 billion annually, it also aims to reduce pollutants from fossil-fuel combustion and agriculture, which includes ammonia, nitrogen oxides, ground-level ozone, sulphur dioxide and volatile organic compounds. Health benefits are being valued between US $ 50 billion to US $160 billion annually, apart from other environmental benefits.

Currently, none of the European Union (EU) laws regulating air pollution include PM 2.5. “Once the directive is adopted the 25 mg limit would be mandatory. It would be reviewed in 2012,” says Lone Mikkelson, EC spokesperson. Each member state would be allowed to choose its best pollution control strategies.

The overall clean air strategy includes long-term objectives and streamlining of previous EU laws. However, ammonia emissions from fertiliser and shipping and aviation emissions do not have a time limit.