"Integration" push for EU air quality policy

European Commission to bring legislation, research, together under "clean air for Europe" programme

Delegates attending the European Commission's green week events in Brussels were yesterday given a sneak preview of the EU's soon to be launched ambitious new air quality programme. The clean air for Europe (cafe) programme will integrate all existing EU air quality policy and research under one umbrella, leading to publication in 2004 of an EU air quality strategy.

"The EU has a lot of legislation on the books, but what we want to do now is create an integrated programme," Commission official Peter Wicks told the green week audience. A communication on cafe is expected to be published next month.

Outlining the programme's objectives, Mr Wicks said that technical analysis would be prioritised to monitor and support implementation of existing air quality legislation as well as pinpoint where and when revisions are required.

Development of links with other sectors would be emphasised in order to assist in the Cardiff process of integrating the environment into all areas of policymaking (ENDS Daily 17 June 1998). Transparency would be a guiding principle throughout, with effective communication to the public high on the agenda.

The other key aim of cafe will be to produce an air quality strategy to guide future policy decisions. "We're going into a huddle to gather the information we need," said Mr Wicks. The strategy will include: an "in-depth review" of existing policy; new proposals for toughening the limit values of the air quality daughter directives and the national emissions ceilings directive; results of all research; a report on public access to EU air quality information; as well as a status report on all air quality improvement measures being pursued by policymakers working in other Commission directorates.

The Commission is not, however, going to wait until the 2004 strategy to name the pollutants currently causing the greatest concern. These are particulates and ozone, delegates were told. Projections to 2010 show that existing legislation will not be enough to tackle the human health and environmental impacts of these pollutants and both will require the introduction of additional measures. Particulates are being prioritised because there is no known "no-effects" threshold for human health, said Mr Wicks.

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

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