The First Clean Air Forum did not only see the launch of the European Clean Air Index, it also concluded with a clear message: solutions to improve air quality are within reach. But to tackle air pollution successfully, we need to work together across economic sectors – transport, energy, agriculture, and industry across decision-making levels – European, national, regional, and city level – across policy areas – environment, climate and energy, mobility, agriculture, and fiscal policy – and together with citizens. Cleaner air will not only improve the health of citizens, it also makes good economic sense.
More than 300 participants from government, industry, non-governmental organisations and citizens shared their views on improving air quality. More than 30 high-level speakers reflected on the clean air challenge, on actors and action fields and how we can improve synergies between policy actions. Discussions focused on three themes: air quality in cities; air pollution from the agricultural sector; and clean air business opportunities.
The debate acknowledged that the EU already has a comprehensive toolbox to help address the clean air challenge: legislation on air quality standards and national emissions ceilings of air pollutants. It also includes source-specific pollution standards for key pollution sources, as well as best available techniques designed to curb industrial emissions. Boosting the Energy Union, moving towards low-emission mobility and further developing the Common Agricultural Policy can and will help cut air pollution further. The task ahead is to implement these policies and make them work for cleaner air.
To reflect on this further, the European Commission is evaluating the Ambient Air Quality Directives through a Fitness Check – an evidence-based analysis of whether EU clean air rules are fit for purpose and delivering as expected.
Raising awareness among citizens of the air quality challenge is also important. Two tools presented on the occasion of the Clean Air Forum are doing this: The European Environment Agency’s ‘European Air Quality Index’ informs citizens about air quality levels based on data reported by Member States, and the Air Quality Atlas from the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission illustrates the main sources of particulate matter pollution for 150 cities across Europe will make.
The second Clean Air Forum will take place in two years’ time, in 2019.