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Commissioner Vella calls #AirQuality ministerial summit on 30 January, and announces new measures to help member states comply with environmental laws

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In a final push to find solutions to address the serious problem of air pollution in the European Union, Commissioner for Environment, Karmenu Vella has invited ministers from nine member states to convene in Brussels on Tuesday, 30 January.

The nine member states, namely the Czech Republic,  Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom, face infringement procedures for exceeding agreed air pollution limits. The meeting gives an opportunity to Member States to prove that additional adequate steps will be taken to redress the current situation without delay and comply with European law.

Commissioner Karmenu Vella said: "This meeting on air quality has been called for three reasons. To protect citizens. To clarify that if there is no improvement of air quality there are legal consequences. And to remind member states that this step is at the end of a long, some would say too long, period of offers to help, advice given, and warnings made. Our first responsibility as the Commission is to the millions of Europeans - young and old, sick and healthy – who suffer from poor air quality. Parents of a child suffering from bronchitis or a daughter of someone with pulmonary disease want to see improvements in air quality as soon as possible. For them, action plans with a 10-12 year timescale or ineffective plans are useless."

As President Juncker underlined in his State of the Union address in 2016, the aim is to deliver a Europe that protects. Every year, more than 400,000 Europeans die prematurely as a consequence of poor air quality and many more suffer from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases caused by air pollution. In economic terms, bad air quality costs well over €20 billion a year to the European economy, due to increased medical costs and reduced workers' productivity.

The Commission wants to cooperate with member states to help them comply with the emission limits, which they have agreed to respect, and which guarantee citizens' health. These are limits for several key pollutants, namely Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM10), which had to be met in 2010 and 2005 respectively. The Commission has already engaged in intensive outreach efforts and political action to help Member States to comply. The most recent example is the Clean Air Forum hosted by Commissioner Vella together with the Mayor of Paris in November 2017 to identify effective solutions to reduce emissions. The Commission has also initiated intensive dialogues with member states with the launch of the Environmental Implementation Review in 2017, and with specific Clean Air Dialogues and Air Quality Expert Group meetings two to three times per year.

The seriousness and urgency of air pollution and the lack of satisfying progress observed in relation to the nine member states requires effective and timely responses. The air quality ministerial summit organized on 30 January is about making sure that additional effective measures are taken and implemented without delay. In case adequate measures are not taken, the Commission will have no choice but to proceed with legal action, as it has already done against two other member states, by referring these member states to the Court.

New measures to help member states comply with environmental laws

The European Commission today also adopted a Compliance Assurance Action Plan which is a set of specific measures to help member states promote, monitor and enforce compliance with EU environmental rules that prevent pollution or environmental harm. The existing rules must be followed by all industrial operators, public utilities, farmers, foresters, hunters and others in order for them to enjoy a level-playing field across the EU and for European citizens to enjoy clean water and air, safe waste disposal and healthy nature. Nine tailored actions are to be implemented over the period of 2018 and 2019. The Commission is also setting up a high-level expert group of nember states' officials and European networks of environmental professionals to successfully deliver the actions of the Compliance Plan.

Background

EU legislation on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe (Directive 2008/50/EC) sets air quality limits that cannot be exceeded anywhere in the EU, and obliges member states to limit the exposure of citizens to harmful air pollutants.

Despite this obligation, air quality has remained a problem in many places for a number of years. In 23 out of 28 member states air quality standards are still being exceeded – in total in more than 130 cities across Europe.

The Commission has taken legal action against Member States over poor air quality since 2008, focusing initially on particulate matter (PM10), for which the compliance deadline was 2005, and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), for which the compliance deadline was 2010.

To date legal action on NO2 involves 13 Member States, with ongoing infringement cases against Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom, and Luxembourg.

As regards PM10 particles, there are currently cases against 16 Member States (Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Slovakia, and Slovenia), and two of these cases (against Bulgaria and Poland) have been brought before the Court of Justice of the EU. The European Court of Justice has passed a ruling as regards PM10 ex­ceedances in Bulgaria in April 2017.

The nine member states invited to the meeting are those, which have already received a Reasoned Opinion and for which the next stage in the infringement procedure would be a referral to the Court of Justice.

Air quality

Powering a climate-neutral economy: Commission sets out plans for the energy system of the future and clean hydrogen, and launches the #EuropeanCleanHydrogenAlliance

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To become climate-neutral by 2050, Europe needs to transform its energy system, which accounts for 75% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. The EU strategies for energy system integration and hydrogen, adopted today (8 July), will pave the way towards a more efficient and interconnected energy sector, driven by the twin goals of a cleaner planet and a stronger economy.

The two strategies present a new clean energy investment agenda, in line with the Commission’s Next Generation EU recovery package and the European Green Deal. The planned investments have the potential to stimulate the economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis. They create European jobs and boost our leadership and competitiveness in strategic industries, which are crucial to Europe’s resilience.

To help deliver on this Strategy, the Commission is launching today the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance with industry leaders, civil society, national and regional ministers and the European Investment Bank. The Alliance will build up an investment pipeline for scaled-up production and will support demand for clean hydrogen in the EU. The alliance will be built on the principles of cooperation, inclusiveness and transparency. The focus of the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance is on renewable hydrogen, complemented during a transition period by low-carbon hydrogen with very ambitious CO2 emission reductions compared to fossil-based hydrogen.The European Clean Hydrogen Alliance launch event will be live streamed here at 16h00.

More information

Follow the press conference by Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Timmermans and Commissioner for Energy Simson live on EbS.

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Air quality

50 airports now #CarbonNeutral in Europe

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Ahead of the COP25 due to kick off in Santiago de Chile next month, European airport trade body ACI EUROPE today gives an update on the progress airports have made to deliver on their commitment to reach 100 carbon neutral airports by 20301. This commitment is a major interim step towards their Net Zero by 2050 vision & pledge2 - which is part of the wider Sustainability Strategy for Airports3 launched last June by ACI EUROPE.

With the successful upgrade today of six Lapland Airports4 operated by Finavia (the Finnish airport operator) to Level 3+ Neutrality of the global CO2 management standard, Airport Carbon Accreditation, there are now 50 carbon neutral airports in Europe5.

ACI EUROPE Director General Olivier Jankovec said: "Just 3 years after committing to 100 carbon neutral airports by 2030, the European airport industry is now halfway through to achieve that goal. The 50 airports that have become carbon neutral under Airport Carbon Accreditation welcome over one-fourth of the continent’s passenger traffic - with a mix of major hubs & smaller regional airports amongst them.”

Carbon neutrality currently represents the highest level of carbon management performance under Airport Carbon Accreditation. In order to reach it, airports need to reduce CO2 emissions from those sources under their control as much as possible, and compensate for the remaining residual emissions with investment in high-quality carbon offsets. Carbon neutral airports at Level 3+ of the Airport Carbon Accreditation have to provide evidence of undertaking all the actions required by the programme (mapping their emissions, reducing them and engaging operational stakeholders on the airport site to do the same), before investing in carbon offsets.

Jankovec added: "While the net zero concept does not allow for offsetting, reaching carbon neutrality first allows airports to grow towards more ambitious CO2 management & restrictions in a progressive way. With the commitment of the European airport industry to reach Net Zero CO2 emissions under their control by 2050 an absolute priority, Europe’s airports continue their steady pace to reach the goalposts between their current carbon management level and the ambitious objective ahead."

Niclas Svenningsen, who heads the Climate Neutral Now initiative at the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat in Bonn, Germany commented: « We are delighted to see more and more airports in Europe achieving their hard-won carbon neutrality each year. We note that the momentum airports have created through their decade-long progress within Airport Carbon Accreditation has been further galvanized by the growing urgency to respond to the Climate Emergency. »

He added: « Europe’s airports continue to be an example to follow in the field of non-state action to address the climate emergency. While having their eyes on the big goal of reaching Net Zero carbon emissions from their operations by 2050, they continue their incremental work to reduce their climate impact. This, is exactly the kind of industry leadership we need to address the daunting and unprecedented challenge that Climate Change represents.”

1View the pledge here.

2Learn more about the Net Zero by 2050 commitment here. 

3Download your copy of the ACI EUROPE Sustainability Strategy here.

4Lapland Airports: Enontekiö (ENF), Ivalo (IVL), Kemi-Tornio (KEM), Kittilä (KTT), Kuusamo (KAO) and Rovaniemi (RVN)

5Download the full list of carbon neutral airports here:
The full list of carbon neutral airports.pdf

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has estimated that aviation’s total CO2 emissions account for 2% of global emissions’ impact on climate change. Of that figure, airports’ own operations only account for up to 5%.

Airport Carbon Accreditation is the only global standard for carbon management at airports. Its aim is to encourage and enable airports to reduce their emissions. Within its framework, airports can become accredited at four progressively ambitious levels of accreditation: Mapping, Reduction, Optimization and Neutrality. 

It is independently administered, institutionally-endorsed and has already won praise from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the European Commission (EC).

Originally developed and launched by ACI EUROPE in June 2009, Airport Carbon Accreditation was extended to airports in Asia-Pacific, in November 2011 (in partnership with ACI Asia-Pacific) and to African airports in June 2013, (in partnership with ACI Africa), North American airports in September 2014 (in partnership with ACI-NA) and airports in Latin America & Caribbean in December 2014 (in partnership with ACI-LAC).

To find out which airports are certified & their level of certification, click here.

ACI EUROPE is the European region of Airports Council International (ACI), the only worldwide professional association of airport operators. ACI EUROPE represents over 500 airports in 45 European countries. Our members facilitate over 90% of commercial air traffic in Europe: 2.3 billion passengers, 21.2 million tonnes of freight and 25.7 million aircraft movements in 2018. In response to the Climate Emergency, in June 2019 our members committed to achieve net zero carbon emissions for operations under their control by 2050, without offsetting.

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Air quality

Clarkson calls eco warrior #GretaThunberg 'spoilt brat'

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Jeremy Clarkson (pictured) has weighed into eco-activist Greta Thunberg, calling her a “spoilt brat”.

Greta, 16, told the United Nations her childhood had been ruined by global changing.

She said: “I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean.

“Yet you all come to us for hope.

“How dare you.

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

Clarkson said: “How dare you sail to America on a carbon fibre yacht that you didn’t build which cost £15million, that you didn’t earn, and which has a back-up diesel engine that you didn’t mention.

“We gave you mobile phones and laptops and the internet.

“We created the social media you use every day and we run the banks that pay for it all.

“So how dare you stand there and lecture us, you spoilt brat.”

He claimed science will solve the earth’s problem “not scowling and having screaming ab-dabs every five minutes”.

He concluded: “So be a good girl, shut up and let them get on with it.”

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