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This is the first time since dieselgate that ministers in charge of combating air pollution will meet to discuss solutions. They will have the opportunity to reverse the technical and opaque decision taken on 28 October to ensure that the law is respected and that the health of Europeans is protected.
On 28 October EU governments have agreed on a major weakening of limits for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from diesel cars, as well as postponed the implementation of new limits for all new cars until 2019. This allows cars to emit twice more NOx than the EU air pollution standards (Euro 6) until 2020. And from 2021, all new cars will still be allowed to emit 50% more NOx than the Euro 6 limit of 80mg/km, permanently.
Member States will also decide new limits for dangerous air pollutants such as fine particles, NOx and ammonia for the next fifteen years. Documents show that Ministers are planning to significantly water down the limits proposed by the European Commission and they are proposing numerous flexibilities and accounting tricks to make air quality targets easier to hit . They also suggest removing methane from the Directive, due to strong pressure from the intensive farming lobby.
According to a recent study by the European Environment Agency, 72, 000 premature deaths were caused by exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in 2012 in the EU. The inhalation of NO2 causes respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, even lung cancer, as well as prenatal and early childhood abnormalities. Diesel vehicles are the principal source of hazardous NO2 in urban areas throughout Europe.