Thursday, September 28, 2006

EU still lags behind US in terms of pollution control

The USA's refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and their general failure to tackle CO2 emissions has led many, in Europe at least, to believe that US environmental regulations are generally weak. This is not strictly true. Since the 1970s the US has implemented strict controls of local air pollutants and only now are European countries starting to catch up. Or are we?

The European Parliament has recently approved new rules to cap concentrations of fine particulates (so called PM10) and other local air pollutants which, it is believed would bring EU policy more in line with that in the USA. However, the inevitable political horsetrading has resulted in a watering down of the initial proposals, to the annoyance of environmentalists and the European Commission.

The Commission said it was concerned by parliamentary amendments that would allow more time for compliance with the existing limits on larger particles known as PM10, beyond January 2010. The changes would also allow cities or communities to exceed daily PM10 limits 55 days per year instead of 35.

"Weakening the daily limit value for PM10 means that people whose health is most affected by poor air quality may be exposed to higher pollution levels on significantly more days a year," Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said in a statement.

Nevertheless, the regulations still represent an tightening of existing legislation so should be welcomed. Furthermore, the proposals should keep us environmental economists happy;

The Commission estimates the health benefits of the measures to be worth at least 42 billion euros a year from 2020 -- six times the costs -- by reducing the number of deaths, sicknesses and related medical care that bad air

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