Air quality and transport

Air quality remains one of the major environmental problems. Europe needs well-enforced air pollution legislation for cars, trucks, diesel machines and ships.

What’s happening to air quality?

In the EU more than 390,000 premature deaths can be attributed every year to air pollution. The health costs of air pollution caused by road transport in Europe have been estimated at €67 billion to €80 billion annually by a study for the European Public Health Alliance. In addition, air pollution also reduces agricultural yields, causes irreversible damage to ecosystems and the loss of biodiversity as well as degradation of historical buildings and monuments.

Europe’s current air quality policy has been the main driver for improvements in air quality but progress has been too slow. This is because emissions limits are not being respected in real life – as the Dieselgate scandal clearly showed – due to the lack of enforcement and legislation not being strict enough to protect human health. Real-life passenger car emissions often still exceed the allowed emissions limits, despite improved on-road tests. The European legislation on diesel machinery is still too lax compared to the emissions legislation for road vehicles. International standards for nitrogen dioxide (NOx) emissions from ships have not been transposed into EU law and no regional or local EU legislation exists to address growing NOx from the maritime sector.

What’s more, the WHO says that there are no safe levels of air pollution and new evidence shows that air pollutants may harm every organ in the human body, which makes stricter legislation even more necessary.

Protecting air quality in Europe 

Europe must be ambitious and make sure that cars, vans, trucks, trains, planes, ships and construction machines are as clean as possible, not only during type approval, but also in real life. The newly developed Real-world Driving Emissions (RDE) test for cars should be further strengthened and used for all compliance in the future.

The EU needs to strengthen its car emission standards for air pollutants (future Euro 7 standards for light-duty vehicles and Euro VII standards for heavy-duty vehicles), aligning them with WHO guidelines on air pollution in a technology-neutral manner which doesn’t discriminate between fuels. It should also review the new testing procedures to increase their scope and eliminate loopholes, thereby ensuring emission standards are really met under all driving conditions.

Read through the other pages of this campaign to see the full impact of transport on air quality in Europe.

This air quality campaign is supported by Life Plus and the EU