The EU detailed plans Wednesday (26 October) to bring air and water pollution down to zero by 2050, proposing tougher rules and compensation for those affected by poor air quality.
The points set out by the European Commission bolster its push transitioning towards a greener future for the 27-nation bloc – a core pledge by commission chief Ursula von der Leyen.
“The longer we wait to reduce this pollution, the higher the costs to society. By 2050, we want our environment to be free of harmful pollutants,” her vice president, Frans Timmermans, said in a statement.
“Our proposals to further reduce water and air pollution are a crucial piece of that puzzle.”
The plan includes a revision of EU legislation, the Ambient Air Quality Directive and the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive.
They would introduce regular reviews, more than halve the annual limit for fine-particle pollution in the air, and make wastewater treatment more effective by, for instance, recovering more nutrients from it for recycling use.
A “polluter pays” principle would be applied to toxic micro-pollutants in water – 92% of which the commission said comes from pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
A key proposal is the compensation for those who have suffered where EU air quality norms have been violated.
Claims could be made under class-action litigation.
Flexibility for EU countries to meet targets
Each of the EU’s member states would be free to come up with their own specific measures to reach the goals, with the commission reserving the right to start infringement procedures “as a last resort” against any that fall short.
There would be “easier procedures for local and regional authorities to go against and impose penalties against the polluters,” the EU’s environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said.
He said the air quality standards being aimed for were closer to those set out by the World Health Organisation, “which fully take into account technical feasibility and then of course social economic considerations”.