The Ministry for the Ecological Transition has described as "indecent" a proposal made to lower the ambition of the new European air quality directive. The initiative has been supported, according to the Government, by eight European regions, including Madrid and Catalonia.
These eight regions propose that the new directive include exceptions in compliance with 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), 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 concentrations of pollutants well above the latest WHO recommendations, much stricter than the current community regulation.
The document where the position of this group is expressed was presented on Wednesday in Brussels, in an act in which only three Italian regions and some MEPs participated.
For the Government "the proposal of Madrid and Catalonia to continue polluting is indecent and puts people's lives at risk. The health of citizens is at stake. The measures aimed at reducing pollution cannot be relaxed”, he says.
The ministry headed by Teresa Ribera points out that the revision 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 the recommendations of the WHO.
"Madrid and the metropolitan area of Barcelona have systematically failed to comply with the pollution limits between 2010 and 2018 and Spain has been condemned by the Court of Justice of the European Union," recalls the ministry.
Pollution causes more than 30,000 premature deaths a year in Spain. “It's a very serious public health problem,” he adds. The Government of Spain has promoted as a solution 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 the 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 relaxations as long as there is a previously approved air quality plan." The Generalitat distanced itself from the words pronounced on Wednesday by the representative of the AIR network in the European Parliament. "We do not share at all the intervention that the representative of the AIR network nor the affirmations that were made on behalf of the regions that comprise it," he points out. "We will send a formal complaint to the network and to the Lombardy region asking for explanations in this regard and considering ceasing to be part of said entity if the positions are no longer shared," he added.
The Government points out that the proposal sent to Europe asked the European Commission to regulate new sources of air pollutant emissions in various areas (pavements, biomass boilers, stoves, maritime transport, aviation...)
AIR believes that it is necessary to "reformulate" some aspects of the directive proposal referring to the periods in which the pollution limits are exceeded "with a realistic approach for each situation, taking into account the starting point" of each region.
The Government explains what is meant by "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 foresees the application of measures that require a longer timetable than provided in the regulations".