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Air care

Julie Girling MEP | European Parliament

3 min read Partner content

Conservative MEP Julie Girling sets out how she is pushing the clean air agenda in Brussels.  

After many years of concentrating on climate change and CO2 reduction, air quality has come up the agenda dramatically in the last year or so, both in Brussels and in the public debate at home. This is a hugely important issue for our citizens, and we cannot underestimate the benefits, both for the health of our nations and to the wider environment, that would be found with improved legislation in this area. With an estimated 400,000 citizens suffering premature death as a result of poor air quality it is clear that the EU must do all that it can to improve standards quickly.

With the new Commission taking office only recently, and their clear commitment to a better regulation agenda - where the EU must concentrate on doing less, better -there were many rumours circulating about the future of the Air Package and I am pleased to say that my efforts in fighting to keep this crucial piece of legislation on the table have paid off.  

There is of course a problem with compliance for many Member States, but this is more with the Ambient Air Quality directive, rather than the National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) directive, for which I am lead negotiator for the European Parliament.

Infringements have tended to focus on just a few air pollutants and I believe that the NEC directive can be an effective tool to help Member States improve how they deal with these and others. We must look for better coordination between local and national actors and of course tackle the relevant pieces of source legislation, to ensure better implementation of existing laws; it is only by taking action on all these fronts that we can make real improvements.

The Mayor of London has already taken steps to address some of the particularly city-centric problems. In 2013 he launched the Air Quality strategy, to clean up our old bus and taxi fleets and introduce a new Ultra Low Emission Zone for the centre of the city.

Work in the European Parliament is finally underway. I will draft my report, amending the Commission proposal, in the next few weeks. Other MEPs will then have the opportunity to make their own suggestions before we vote before the summer recess and hopefully enter negotiations with Member States in the autumn.

The Air Package and the better regulation agenda are not mutually exclusive and I fully believe that we can come up with a robust and ambitious legislative solution that will help us tackle this trans-boundary problem in a realistic manner.

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