By substantially reducing emissions of air pollutants, the proposed new National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive would achieve considerable positive impacts on human health and the environment. The benefits of these health improvements far exceed the costs of additional abatement measures. Therefore, the proposal is well justified. However, compliance with the World Health Organization’s guidelines for PM2.5 and ozone will be still out of reach.
These are the main conclusions of a study undertaken at the request of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, to provide an analysis of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) air quality guideline values for health in the context of the revision of the NEC Directive.
The study notes that in 2030 there will still be several emission sources contributing to elevated levels of PM2.5, and that not only primary PM emissions have to be abated, but also sources emitting the PM precursors SO2, NOx, NH3 and VOCs. As the share of combustion emissions from traffic will decline, the relative importance of emissions from agriculture and solid-fuel burning in the domestic sector will rise.
For ozone, the importance of hemispheric background levels is increasing and in order to further decrease the levels of this pollutant in Europe, measures within the EU and internationally will need to go hand in hand.
Current modelling results suggest that additional structural changes are required to achieve substantial further emission reductions, and the authors recommend that, before 2030, health impacts and interferences with other policies (in particular climate change, agriculture and energy) should be reassessed. The currently applied models have shortcomings in analysing the effects of lifestyle and behavioural changes such as a shift to vegetarian diets, which might open further options for emission reductions.
The study: EU Air Quality Policy and WHO Guideline Values for Health (October 2014). By Policy Department A: Economic and Scientific Policy, of the European Parliament’s Directorate General for Internal Policies. Available at: www.europarl.europa.eu/studies