Brussels (dpa) – Environment without poison: Stricter EU directives must reduce pollutants in air, water and soil by 2050 in such a way that they no longer harm people and nature.
This should prevent hundreds of thousands of premature deaths from air pollution every year by 2030. The European Commission presented the “Zero Pollutants” action plan on Wednesday. That is not specific enough for the Greens. However, the auto industry insists on a sense of proportion.
The action plan is “important because today pollution kills one in eight in the EU,” said Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans. “Dangerous cancers, respiratory diseases, all of these are related to pollution and, as always, the most vulnerable in society suffer the most.” One million animal and plant species on the planet are also in danger of extinction.
Countermeasures planned by 2024 could face new costs for industry and consumers. However, these are less than doing nothing, said EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius. According to the European Commission, the costs of air pollution are estimated at 70 to 80 billion euros per year. However, air pollution causes annual health and economic damage of EUR 330-940 billion.
The EU estimates the number of premature deaths from air pollutants at 400,000 per year. This number must be reduced by more than 55 percent by 2030, according to the plan of action. To this end, the Commission wants to tighten up EU air quality standards and align with the new recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO). However, a concrete proposal is not expected until 2022.
Greens in the European Parliament criticized the fact that the new WHO recommendations should only be approximated and not fully implemented. However, CDU MEP Norbert Lins praised this precisely. “No pollution is an honorable but technically difficult goal,” said Lins.
The European Commission is planning stricter requirements for agriculture, industry, traffic, buildings and power generation to contain pollutants at their source. A new Euro 7 standard for pollutants has already been announced for cars. In agriculture, this involves ammonia, which is used as a fertilizer in the form of liquid manure. This is an important precursor to particulate matter. The cheapest way to avoid this is by changing the animals’ diet and handling manure and fertilizers.
Further milestones in the action plan by 2030: The proportion of people constantly affected by traffic noise must be reduced by 30 percent. In 25 percent fewer ecosystems in the EU, air pollution would endanger biodiversity. The use and risk of chemical pesticides must be reduced by 50 percent, plastic pollution in the sea by 50 percent and the amount of microplastics entering the environment by 30 percent. Household waste should also shrink by half.
The goals are set in such a way that they can realistically be achieved with the measures planned for 2024, Sinkevicius said. The Commission also relies on new digital technology, such as precision farming, to minimize fertilizers, water and pesticides.
The Association of the Automotive Industry noted, “The zero pollution vision is a goal worth pursuing.” Car manufacturers have already contributed to reducing air pollution and support further improvements. However, new targets should remain commensurate even with the planned Euro 7 emissions standard.