Excessive particle pollution adds weight to call for strict Euro-5

More evidence is emerging of cities exceeding pollution limits that are meant to last for a year under EU clean air legislation that came into effect in January.

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[mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]The legislation sets levels of soot particles which can only be exceeded on 35 days in a year. In February a number of Italian cities saw car bans on certain Sundays as cities hit their 35th day of excessive levels within 60 days of 2005. And last month a number of German cities came under the microscope as citizens and environmental groups made complaints about air quality.

Munich and Stuttgart both recorded their 36th day of excessive soot particles by the end of March, with Düsseldorf and the capital Berlin reported to be not far behind. The maximum permitted level is 50 micrograms per cubic metre.

One German NGO threatened legal action against Berlin, which it said had exceeded the limit 16 times by the end of February, and it was considering similar action against Munich and Dortmund. Meanwhile Düsseldorf said it would ban lorries from certain streets and would ban all vehicles from much of the city if air quality did not improve.

Meanwhile in the Netherlands, activists in The Hague are using the EU legislation as the basis for legal action against the Dutch administrative capital. They want less traffic through their street, “De Veerkades”, which is known as one of the most polluted streets in the country.

The Commission has the right to take legal action against countries whose cities fail to conform to the air quality standards.

Concern about the impact of particles on human health is leading to changes in consumer behaviour. According a report in the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, a significant number of German customers are deciding to wait to buy a new car until particle filters are fitted as standard, or they are buying cars with filters from non-German makers such as Peugeot or Citroën.

Earlier this year the German government agreed to offer state subsidies of €250-€350 for cars fitted or retrofitted with filters (though T&E’s German member VCD is angry that little progress has been made since the agreement in January). The Dutch government says it will offer €600 per car from June for new cars with filters.

Such consumer response and the speed with which the tolerance threshold for excessive days is being reached may add to pressure for the “Euro-5” round of polluting emissions standards for new vehicles to take a strict line on fine particles.

The Commission has suggested the Euro-5 limit for particles will be no lower than 2.5mg/km, but T&E says 1mg is not unrealistic. Europe’s top environmental science committee Scher has supported the call for 2.5mg, even though it says research into the impact of particles on health is still inconclusive.

The Euro-5 proposals are expected to be published in July, just before the Commission’s summer break.

• Ministers and MEPs have reached agreement on a new directive on car recyclablility. The directive will require car markers to ensure at least 85% of the materials in their products are “reusable and/or recyclable”. The recyclability directive is intended to make it easy for the targets set out in the 2000 EU End-of-Life Vehicles directive to be met.

This news story is taken from the April 2005 edition of T&E Bulletin.