Press release: 29 November 2019

EU Commission to get tougher on air quality laggards – Fitness Check concludes

The European Commission has published its conclusions on the Fitness Check of the EU Ambient Air Quality Directive, at the Clean Air Forum in Bratislava today. The Commission backs the importance of the Directive as a major driver for improving air quality across Europe and has urged Member States to step up implementation to protect people’s health.

The Staff Working Document finds that the Ambient Air Quality Directive (AAQD) is clearly “fit for purpose”. The document identifies binding air quality standards and the requirements to adopt air quality plans among “the most fundamental and compelling” tools for pushing Member States to tackle air pollution throughout the EU.

However, the Commission has flagged that the slow progress in addressing harmful air across Europe has been mainly due to the lack of implementation by Member States.

Reacting to the conclusions, ClientEarth lawyer Ugo Taddei said: “The AAQD and its enforcement, both by the Commission and civil society, have been essential to accelerate action to fight harmful air pollution and protect people’s health across the EU.

“But better implementation is key to addressing the ongoing health crisis in Europe. The Commission should immediately produce implementing acts to ensure better air quality monitoring, more harmonised modelling and stronger air quality plans.

“This lack of compliance is why we and our partners have taken national governments to court and will continue to challenge their failure to address illegal levels of air pollution until all Europeans can breathe clean air.”

During the Fitness Check process, concerns were raised about the AAQD’s coherence with agricultural policies and residential biomass burning-related policies. In particular, the Common Agricultural Policy was deemed to potentially hamper the implementation of the AAQD.

Margherita Tolotto, Policy Officer for Air and Noise at EEB said: “EU legislation has been the main driver to reduce air pollution over the last decade, but much still needs to be done. We need coherent policies to deliver clean air, and the Common Agricultural Policy is clearly in the spotlight. Full implementation of the National Emissions Ceilings Directive is also key, yet too many Member States are still lagging behind.”

The Working Document highlights several lessons learned from the Fitness Check that DG Daniel Calleja Crespo, who presented the document during the Clean Air Forum, said the new Commission would consider as part of the zero pollution strategy under the European Green Deal.


About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a charity that uses the power of the law to protect people and the planet. We are international lawyers finding practical solutions for the world’s biggest environmental challenges. We are fighting climate change, protecting oceans and wildlife, making forest governance stronger, greening energy, making business more responsible and pushing for government transparency. We believe the law is a tool for positive change. From our offices in London, Brussels, Warsaw, Berlin and Beijing, we work on laws throughout their lifetime, from the earliest stages to implementation. And when those laws are broken, we go to court to enforce them.

About EEB

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is Europe’s largest network of environmental citizens’ organisations, bringing together over 160 civil society organisations from more than 35 European countries.

We stand for environmental justice, sustainable development and participatory democracy. Our experts work on climate change, biodiversity, circular economy, air, water, soil, chemical pollution, as well as policies on industry, energy, agriculture, product design and waste prevention. We are also active on overarching issues as sustainable development, good governance, participatory democracy and the rule of law in Europe and beyond.