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EU Commission proposes revisions to the Ambient Air Quality Directives

26 October 2022

The European Commission has proposed stronger rules on ambient air quality. The proposed revision of the Ambient Air Quality Directives will set ‘interim’ 2030 EU air quality standards, aligned more closely with World Health Organization guidelines, while putting the EU on a trajectory to achieve zero pollution for air at the latest by 2050, in synergy with climate-neutrality efforts, the Commission said in a press release.

The key proposed change is a tighter annual limit value for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) of 10 µg/m3, effective from 2030, down from the current limit of 25 µg/m3.

Selected current and proposed (2030) EU air quality standards compared with WHO guidelines
PollutantAveraging timeEU currentEU 2030WHO 2005WHO 2021
PM2.5, µg/m3Annual2510105
24 hour-252515
PM10, µg/m3Annual40202015
24 hour50455045
O3, µg/m38 hour120a120a100100
NO2, µg/m3Annual40204010
24 hour-50-25
1 hour200200--
SO2, µg/m3Annual-20--
24 hour125502040
1 hour350350--
CO, mg/m3 24 hour---4
8 hour1010--
a target value (not a limit value)

The proposal introduces a number of other changes. People suffering health damages from air pollution will have the right to be compensated in the case of a violation of EU air quality rules, and will have the right to be represented by non-governmental organization through collective actions for damage compensation. The new legislation will also support local authorities by strengthening the provisions on air quality monitoring, modeling, and improved air quality plans.

The proposals will now be considered by the European Parliament and the Council in the ordinary EU legislative procedure.

The EU standards for ambient particle pollution have lagged behind those adopted in several other countries, and have been criticized by public health advocates as not being sufficiently protective for human health. For comparison, a PM2.5 limit value of 10 μg/m3 has been in place in Australia, Canada, Iran, Switzerland, UK, and some other countries, while the current US PM2.5 standard is 12 μg/m3.

Source: European Commission