Commission continues tough line on air quality

Over the summer, the European Commission has made decisions on numerous requests from member states for extra time to meet nitrogen dioxide (NO2) standards. Fewer than half of the air quality zones concerned met conditions for an extension.

According to the EU’s Air Quality Directive, member states can be permitted to delay for up to five years the 2010 deadline for meeting local NO2 targets set in 1999. In order to get a derogation, member states must draw up and implement air quality plans with appropriate measures to ensure that the exceedance period can be kept as short as possible. The air quality plan has to show compliance with the limit value as soon as possible and at the latest by 2015.

In July, the Commission made decisions on applications from six member states. Only Finland’s application, which relates solely to Helsinki, was approved in full. Italy, which submitted applications for 48 zones, was granted 18 extensions to 2015, three to 2013 and one to 2014. The rejected zones include Rome, Naples and Turin, none of which are expected to meet the targets by 2015.

Belgium was granted extensions for the port and city of Antwerp but refused one for Brussels, which is not expected to comply until 2018. Austria only won full extensions for Carinthia and Linz. Lower Austria must become compliant next year. The remaining six zones in its application, including Vienna and Salzburg, were refused extensions.

The Czech Republic was granted more time to meet the hourly limit in Prague, but the capital and three other zones did not win extensions to the annual limit, partly due to poor and inconsistent data. Spain’s application for three extensions also failed.

In June, the EU executive approved a Latvian application covering Riga and one for the UK mainland. Gibraltar already has an extension.

Several other applications from member states are still under consideration by the Commission.

Source: ENDS Europe Daily, 19 July 2012

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