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European standards that save lives: the keys to the new air pollution limits

2024-02-22T20:01:52.683Z

Highlights: Air pollution claims around 300,000 lives each year in the EU and around seven million worldwide. Community institutions have agreed to tighten the thresholds for the main causes of air pollution. The updating of the limits for each pollutant, which must be met from 2030, still do not match the latest recommendations of the World Health Organization. “In the year 2022, 80% of the population breathed air that fails to meet the new legal objectives,” warns Ecologistas en Acción.


Although late, the community institutions have agreed to tighten the thresholds for the main causes of air pollution


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The governments of the 27 EU countries and the representatives of the European Parliament have closed this week an important pact that could be decisive in improving the health of the 446 million community citizens: they have agreed on the bases for the future air quality directive. which will set limits for the main air pollutants, which claim around 300,000 lives each year in the EU and around seven million worldwide.

“We are very happy, although the new limits arrive late,” Xavier Querol, from the Institute of Environmental Diagnosis and Water Studies, of the CSIC, tells me by phone.

Querol, a pollution expert, explains that the future new directive (which must be ready before the European elections in May) is the “daughter” of the 1996 air quality mother directive.

That regulation from 28 years ago set the general objective of reducing the concentrations of atmospheric pollutants harmful to the environment and the health of citizens, substances that come mainly from exhaust pipes and chimneys.

The first daughter of that directive was born in 1999 and, as Querol recalls, it was an ambitious text in which limits were set for the main pollutants in an annex.

Among all, three stand out: suspended particles of less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM₂,₅), particles of less than 10 microns (PM₁₀) and nitrogen dioxide (NO₂).

The limits established in 1999 are still in force because the EU has not been able to tighten them as planned in recent years despite the fact that evidence has been accumulating of how deadly this pollution is.

That is why Querol speaks of “delay.”

And what has been approved now?

The updating of the limits for each pollutant, which must be met from 2030. Although they are improved, they still do not match the latest recommendations of the World Health Organization.

  • For PM₂,₅ particles the current annual exposure limit is 20 micrograms per cubic meter.

    The new directive will establish 10 micrograms starting in 2030. And the WHO establishes 5 as a safety threshold.

  • For PM₁₀ particles, the current limit is 40 micrograms per cubic meter and that of the new directive is 20. The WHO recommends 15 micrograms.

  • For NO₂, the maximum exposure at this time is 40 micrograms per cubic meter and that of the new directive is 20. The WHO recommends that it be 10.

Positive and disturbing points

“The WHO limits for 2030 would have been better, but not feasible,” says Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, director of the Air Pollution and Urban Environment program at ISGlobal.

“Overall, it will significantly reduce air pollution-related diseases and premature mortality, which is still too high,” he adds.

Along the same lines, Ecologistas en Acción assures that “the new legal objectives are a great challenge for all” Spanish cities.

The limits are practically reduced by half.

And the cities of the country (Madrid and the metropolitan area of ​​Barcelona have already been condemned by European justice for failing to comply with the current thresholds) will have to take important measures, something that is not being done now in many cases (non-compliance when it comes to establishing low emission zones is truly alarming).

“In the year 2022, 80% of the population breathed air that fails to meet the new legal objectives,” warns Ecologistas en Acción.

Querol highlights that during the negotiation process of this directive a serious problem was put on the table: the delay in condemning non-compliant countries, as has also been seen in the case of Barcelona and Madrid.

The new text will open the door to more avenues of pressure: both private citizens and NGOs will be able to go to court.

And compensation may be requested.

“Hopefully we'll see more action,” Nieuwenhuijsen tells me.

But there are also disturbing aspects to the agreement, Nieuwenhuijsen and Querol acknowledge.

For example, the door opens to the possibility that in certain cases the limits of contaminants can be postponed for up to 10 years depending on the specific conditions of a territory.

Although experts prefer to wait to know the final details of the new directive, these possible exceptions are too reminiscent of those requested by Catalonia, the Community of Madrid and other European regions (some of them governed by the extreme right) a few months ago from the community institutions. .

Doñana, again

It seemed that peace between the Government and the Junta had been signed last November, when both administrations presented a plan for the Doñana region to reduce pressure on this natural space.

But everything was about to blow up this week, when the approval of a decree law by the Andalusian Executive was announced that opens the door to amnesty to offending farmers with red berries on forest land next to the reserve and other crops. in different areas of the region.

The central government, after hearing the news, paralyzed the plan signed in November.

After that step, the Board announced that it was backing down and that it is willing to modify whatever is needed in the decree law.

This week talks between the two Governments will continue.

The Murcian farmer José Ángel Morales must crush the lemons that he cannot sell on his farm in San Javier (Murcia).ALFONSO DURAN

The great waste of water

The two governments will talk about Doñana, but also about drought.

This week we published this report focused on a great waste of water, that of the billions of liters to water fruits and vegetables that end up discarded or as animal food.

A group of researchers from the University of Alicante has calculated that the irrigation of agricultural products withdrawn from the market alone consumes the equivalent of 538 tanker ships.

But that would only be the consumption of discarded products with public aid, so the waste is really much greater.

You can read it here.

In other news

This week we published these other interesting news:

  • The exceptional trip to Africa of the vultures

    Ramón

    and

    Singratella

    .

    SEO/BirdLife presents the results of two decades of radiotagging of the largest scavenger in Spain, a species that does not migrate, through 52 specimens.

    The itineraries can be viewed interactively.

  • Spain has a problem with recycling: it reuses less than the European average and worsens in circular use of materials.

    Germany almost doubles the rate of reuse of urban waste, according to a report by the BBVA Foundation and the IVIE with data from Eurostat.

  • The EU will reward farmers who take care of the soil to absorb more CO₂.

    The new voluntary carbon certification framework must still be ratified by the European Parliament and the Member States.

  • Seagulls transport 400 kilos of plastic a year in their crops to a lagoon where thousands of flamingos breed.

    Birds ingest them in landfills and disperse them in Fuente de Piedra (Málaga).

    The CSIC warns that the problem may affect other aquatic ecosystems.

  • José Ramón Becerra: “Hunting is from times gone by and attracts less and less support in society.”

    The new director general of Animal Rights indicates that the development of the controversial animal welfare law will end in mid-2025.

  • The Prosecutor's Office opens a new avenue to criminally prosecute the death of birds on power lines.

    A study warns that half of the unnatural deaths of birds in Spain are due to collisions and electrocutions with these infrastructures.

  • Four US financial giants take a step back on climate issues in the face of political pressure.

    JPMorgan, Pimco, BlackRock and State Street leave the Climate Action 100+ group in the face of harassment from Republicans.

Before saying goodbye I want to recommend the protest concert that will be held on Saturday in Zaragoza.

It is the Roya Fest Channel, organized by the Platform in Defense of the Mountains of Aragon and joined by the most important environmental organizations in the country: Friends of the Earth, Ecologists in Action, Greenpeace, SEO/BirdLife and WWF.

What is sought is to defend the Pyrenean valley of Canal Roya, threatened by the union of ski resorts, and to protect it with the creation of the Anayet-Partacua natural park, whose declaration has been pending for more than a decade.

In this link you can consult all the information about this festival.

Thank you very much for following us and see you next week.

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Source: elparis

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