EU emission ceilings law "would save lives"

Commission looks to MEPs to support tough targets in national emission ceilings directive

Ozone and particulate pollution will claim an extra 4,000 EU lives annually if member states refuse to endorse national emission ceilings for four key air pollutants proposed by the European Commission, according to an unpublished Commission analysis seen by ENDS Daily. The figures have been circulated to MEPs as they decide whether to back the Commission's targets or to stick with less stringent ones agreed last year under a UN protocol.

MEPs will debate in Strasbourg tomorrow whether to support the Commission's plans for a directive to reduce national emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia and hydrocarbons (ENDS Daily 9 June 1999). The targets are on average 12% stricter than those voluntarily accepted by EU countries under the UN/ECE multi-pollutant, multi-effects protocol (ENDS Daily 30 November 1999).

Shortly after the protocol was signed in November, the Commission produced figures showing that it would miss targets to reduce acidification and ground-level ozone formation by up to 50% (ENDS Daily 4 November 1999). Now it has calculated the health effects of settling for the lower ambition level of the UN/ECE agreement, which was signed by countries across Europe rather than just the 15 EU members.

According to the analysis, 2,000 early EU deaths from short-term exposure to ozone and secondary particles would be prevented by the protocol, but 6,000 would be prevented by the directive. Meeting the protocol targets would add 75,000 "life-years" annually within the EU, while achieving the Commission's targets would add 250,000 life-years. The cost of meeting the protocol targets is estimated at euros 1.5bn annually, while the more ambitious EU proposal is costed at euros 5.7bn.

The Commission is hoping to influence MEPs before the Parliament votes on the directive on Wednesday. The assembly's influential environment committee has endorsed the Commission's proposal (ENDS Daily 24 February), but a large section of the centre-right EPP is opposed to the directive's targets, as are several member states (ENDS Daily 12 October 1999).

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111.

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