Press release: 15 November 2021

More than half of EU’s air pollution deaths avoidable had leaders followed science – ClientEarth reaction

Environmental lawyers at ClientEarth have reacted to new health data published today by the European Environment Agency (EEA). They say it is clear the EU must introduce air quality standards in line with leading expertise to cut unnecessary premature deaths in the EU.

The EEA’s analysis shows that to reduce premature deaths from air pollution by 55% by 2030 – a key target of the Zero Pollution Action Plan – the EU must adopt stricter air quality limits, particularly for fine particulate matter (PM2.5), in line with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) new air quality guidelines.

Responding to the report, ClientEarth’s head of clean air Ugo Taddei said: “The world’s leading experts have made it clear that there is no level of air pollution that is safe to breathe – and this is why the EU must be doing all it can to keep our exposure as low as possible.

“Clean and healthy air is a fundamental right and EU laws should be fit to protect individuals. That starts with reflecting the best available science in the law. The European Commission is now looking to reform EU air quality standards and the EEA’s analysis makes it unequivocal that the new WHO recommendations must be reflected in legislation.

“The revision of the Air Quality Directive is a once-in-a generation opportunity to ensure people in the EU don’t have to breathe harmful levels of air pollution for years to come.”


Notes to editors:

World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines are the most authoritative scientific reference to help policymakers across the world in setting standards and goals for air quality management.

The WHO recommends that the concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) do not exceed an annual mean concentration of 5 µg/m3 and10 µg/m3, respectively.

As part of the European Green Deal, the European Commission has launched the EU Action Plan Towards a Zero Pollution Ambition for air, water and soil.

Also under the Deal, the Commission already announced in 2019 the intention to revise air quality standards to align them more closely with the WHO recommendations. In December 2020, the Commission published the roadmap for the Revision of the Ambient Air Quality Directives, with a proposal for revised legislation expected in Q3 2022.

About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.