The Ministry for the Ecological Transition has described as “indecent” a proposal made to lower the ambition of the new European air quality directive. The initiative has been supported, according to the Government, by eight European regions, including Madrid and Catalonia.
These eight regions propose that the new directive include exceptions in compliance with the new directive in the case of certain “specific regions” and demand that the new directive incorporate “ambitious, but realistic limits”.
These regions are grouped in the Air Quality Initiative of the Regions (AIR, for its acronym in English), it is headed by three regions of northern Italy and the Community of Madrid and Catalonia are part of it.
The AIR group also includes the Dutch provinces, Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, Piedmont, Styria and Veneto.
These are geographical areas with concentrations of pollutants well above the latest WHO recommendations, much stricter than the current community regulation.
Ministry and Generalitat exhibit their differences when revealing a controversial proposal
The document where the position of this group is expressed was presented on Wednesday in Brussels, in an act in which only three Italian regions and some MEPs participated.
For the Government “the proposal of Madrid and Catalonia to continue polluting is indecent and puts people’s lives at risk. The health of citizens is at stake. The measures aimed at reducing pollution cannot be relaxed”, he says.
The ministry headed by Teresa Ribera points out that the revision of the air quality directive “is a priority” for the Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU, and its intention is to adjust the standard to the recommendations of the WHO.
Madrid and the Barcelona metropolitan area have systematically breached the pollution limits between 2010 and 2018
“Madrid and the metropolitan area of Barcelona have systematically failed to comply with the pollution limits between 2010 and 2018 and Spain has been condemned by the Court of Justice of the European Union,” recalls the ministry.
Pollution causes more than 30,000 premature deaths a year in Spain. “It’s a very serious public health problem,” he adds. The Government of Spain has promoted as a solution the obligation to establish low emission zones in all towns with more than 50,000 inhabitants, provided for in the Climate Change Law. “The Ministry is fighting in Brussels so that the air quality regulations are much more demanding,” he insists.
The Climate Action Department stands out from the group
The Departament d’Acció Climática denied that it had asked to lower the pollution thresholds, although it qualified: “We accept the values of the future directive, with possible relaxations as long as there is a previously approved air quality plan.”
The Generalitat distanced itself from the words pronounced on Wednesday by the representative of the AIR network in the European Parliament. “We do not share at all the intervention that the representative of the AIR network nor the affirmations that were made on behalf of the regions that comprise it,” he points out. “We will send a formal complaint to the network and to the Lombardy region asking for explanations in this regard and considering ceasing to be part of said entity if the positions are no longer shared,” he added.
The Government points out that the proposal sent to Europe asked the European Commission to regulate new sources of air pollutant emissions in various areas (pavements, biomass boilers, stoves, maritime transport, aviation…)
AIR believes that it is necessary to “reformulate” some aspects of the directive proposal referring to the periods in which the pollution limits are exceeded “with a realistic approach for each situation, taking into account the starting point” of each region.
The Government explains what is meant by “developing ambitious but realistic limits”. This proposal was included “to request flexibility in compliance in very specific cases, and in which the achievement of the limit values provides for the application of measures that require a longer timetable than provided in the regulations”.
The Government decided at the time to join the network of AIR regions “to share experiences and knowledge and to send proposals to different European organizations so that they could promote the definition of strategies to improve air quality”, indicates the Government. Last October, together with other regions of this network, we worked with this group to address the Position Paper on the revision of the directive, which was finally sent to the European Commission.
This proposal called for the Commission to regulate more relevant sources at the EU level to further reduce emissions of air pollutants and to support national, regional and local governments to achieve future air quality standards. Specifically, action was requested on the most relevant emission sources: promoting energy efficiency, emissions from agriculture, road transport (Euro 7), emissions from wear of vehicle parts (tires, brakes…) and from pavements, road dust resuspension, biomass boilers, combined heat and power systems, fireplaces, stoves, non-road mobile machinery, shipping, aviation and motorcycles.
AIR believes that the term “as soon as possible” needs to be rephrased as referring to the need to achieve milestones related to the new requirements and contaminant lead times. It called for “a realistic approach to each situation”, taking into account the starting point regarding the initial emission, the weather situation and other conditions.