The European Commission, as part of the European Green Deal, have revised air quality standards with the aim to align them more closely with the recommendations of the World Health Organization. EuroHealthNet have responded to this revision of EU rules outlining that whilst the revised Directive outlines opportunities for the EU and Member States, gaps for a stronger response to pollution remain, including greater attention to the social inequalities entwined with health impacts.
- WHO guidelines: EuroHealthNet is disappointed to note that the revised Directive does not call for full alignment with the WHO guidelines on air pollution. Air pollution is one of the biggest threats to our health and action taken must reflect the urgency. For complete alignment, Member States need support at the local level e.g. by allocating EU funds and implementing programmes to build capacity in more integrated and multisectoral approaches.
- Vulnerable groups: EuroHealthNet welcomes the inclusion of vulnerable groups into the revised Directive. Targeted and adapted actions must be implemented along a social gradient that considers groups in greater need for support as well as the general population.
- Legally binding measures: The EU minimum requirements should consider the different aspects influencing Member States’ ability to act, and establish an ambitious but manageable base lines to meet the EU objectives by 2050 and to meet the WHO guidelines sooner. The European Commission must maintain legally binding obligations and assure its implementation.
- Information exchange: The Directives requirement for Member States and the Commission to exchange information on air quality is welcomed by EuroHealthNet. It is important to ensure that this exchange of information also promotes a systemic application of health impact assessments of air pollution, which consider the different elements of inequity present. This will serve to increase awareness around the social and environmental inequalities in health.
EuroHealthNet works with our members to build capacity of national public health authorities. To act on air pollution and address its consequences on health and wellbeing, policymakers need improved access to the evidence of these impacts. EuroHealthNet is proud to be part of the consortium for BEST-COST, a Horizon EU funded project on measuring the socioeconomic cost of environmental stressors such as air pollution in Europe. The results from this project will feed into improving policies to reduce the burden of disease caused by pollution at EU and national levels.