Environment ministers held a debate on Monday (15 June) on the proposal of a new directive regarding national emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants. The so-called NEC directive aims to improve the air quality in the Member States but ministers demanded more flexibility in meeting EU air quality objectives. Governments did not reach an agreement on whether the proposed reduction targets for 2030 should be legally binding or not.
While the United Kingdom, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Hungary embraced the ditching of methane ceilings from the directive, Poland demand a postponement until 2040 and Hungary suggested that the proposal should be scrapped completely. Other countries mostly called for review clauses to be inserted in the law. The revised NEC controls different types of pollution in each EU country. The ultimate target is to decrease the number of premature deaths caused by pollution by fifty percent by 2030. The European Environment Agency estimates that about 400,000 people die annually from various causes connected to air pollution.
The NEC directive is part of the “Clean Air Program for Europe”, which aims to address various environmental effects and health risks caused by air pollution. The legislation should also ensure that the directive is in accordance with international regulations and commitments by 2020. As such, the ministers also took a closer look at the progress in the international climate talks as part of the preparations for the UN Convention on Climate Change conference that will take place in Paris in December this year.
The Council generally expressed its dissatisfaction with the slow progress of the talks and pointed out that only 10 negotiating days were left until the COP21. COP21 – Sustainable Innovation Forum – is an annual event organized under the auspices of the Climate Action and United Nations Environmental Program.