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EU Parliament and Council reach agreement on stronger air quality standards

21 February 2024

Negotiators from the EU Parliament and Council reached a provisional political agreement to revise the Ambient Air Quality Directives (AAQD) and strengthen exposure limits for ambient air pollutants.

The new rules set stricter 2030 limits and target values, compared to current rules, for several pollutants including particulate matter (PM2.5, PM10), NO2, and SO2. For the two pollutants with the highest impact on human health, PM2.5 and NO2, the annual limit values are to be more than halved from 25 µg/m3 to 10 µg/m3 and from 40 µg/m3 to 20 µg/m3 respectively.

The adopted text follows the EU Commission proposal of October 2022 and aligns the EU limit value for PM2.5 with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Air Quality Guidelines of 2005. In September 2023, the EU Parliament adopted a position to further strengthen the air pollutant limits, beyond the Commission proposal, to align them with the WHO Air Quality Guidelines of 2021, effective from 2035. These Parliament-proposed 2035 limits have been omitted from the text negotiated by the Parliament and Council.

The air quality standards shall be reviewed by 31 December 2030 and at least every five year thereafter and more often if clear from new scientific findings, such as revised WHO Air Quality Guidelines.

It will be possible for member states to request that the 2030 deadline to attain the air quality limit values be postponed by up to ten years, if specific conditions are met.

The agreed text also requires more air quality sampling points in European cities and provides the opportunity for citizens to seek compensation if their health is damaged due to the violation of air quality standards.

The deal still has to be adopted by the EU Parliament and Council, after which the new law will be published in the EU Official Journal and enter into force 20 days later. EU countries will then have two years to apply the new rules.

The action is part of the Zero Pollution Action Plan that aims to eliminate air pollution by 2050.

Source: EU Parliament