The Ministry for the Ecological Transition has described as "indecent" a proposal formulated to lower the ambition of the new European air quality directive. The initiative has been supported, according to the central government, by eight European regions, including Madrid and Catalonia.
These eight regions propose that the new directive include exceptions to the compliance of the new directive in the case of certain "specific regions" and demand that the new directive incorporate "ambitious but realistic limits". These regions are grouped in the Air Quality Initiative of the Regions (AIR, by its acronym in English) headed by three regions of northern Italy and of which the Community of Madrid and Catalonia are part. The AIR group also includes the Dutch provinces, Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, Piedmont, Styria and Veneto. These are geographical areas with pollutant concentrations well above the latest WHO recommendations, which are much stricter than the current community regulations.
The document expressing the position of this group was presented on Wednesday in Brussels, in an event in which only three Italian regions and some MEPs participated.
According to the central government, "the proposal by Madrid and Catalonia to continue polluting is indecent and puts people's lives at risk. Citizens' health is at stake. The measures aimed at reducing pollution cannot be relaxed", he says.
The ministry led by Teresa Ribera points out that the review of the air quality directive "is a priority" for the Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU, and its intention is to adjust the standard to WHO recommendations.
"Madrid and the metropolitan area of Barcelona have systematically breached pollution limits between 2010 and 2018 and Spain has been condemned by the Court of Justice of the European Union", recalls the Ministry.
"It is a very serious public health problem", he adds. As a solution, the Government of Spain has promoted the obligation to establish low-emission zones in all towns with more than 50,000 inhabitants, provided for in the Climate Change law. "The ministry is fighting in Brussels so that air quality regulations are much more demanding," he insists.
The Department of Climate Action denied that it had asked to lower the pollution thresholds, although it qualified: "We accept the values of the future directive, with possible flexibility as long as there is an approved air quality plan" previously . The Generalitat distanced itself from the words spoken by the representative of the AIR network in the European Parliament on Wednesday. "We do not share in the least the intervention that the representative of the AIR network or the statements that were made on behalf of the regions that make it up", he points out. "We will send a formal complaint to the network and the region of Lombardy in which we ask for explanations on the issue and in which we value ceasing to be part of this entity if the positions are no longer shared," he added.
The Catalan Government points out that in the proposal sent to Europe, the European Commission was asked to regulate new sources of atmospheric pollutant emissions in various areas (flooring, biomass boilers, stoves, maritime transport, aviation...).
AIR believes that it is necessary to "reformulate" some aspects of the proposal for the directive referring to the periods in which pollution limits are exceeded "with a realistic approach for each situation, taking into account the starting point" of each region .
The Generalitat explains what is meant when it talks about "developing ambitious but realistic limits". This proposal was included "to request flexibility in compliance in very specific cases, and in which the achievement of the limit values provides for the application of measures that require a more extensive schedule than provided for in the regulations".