EU dilutes proposal to halve air pollution deaths after UK lobbying

If implemented, weakened proposal means 14,000 people could die prematurely across Europe each year from 2030

London: polluting particles tend to increase the intensity of fog on naturally foggy days (Image: G. Bell/Alamy)

London: polluting particles tend to increase the intensity of fog on naturally foggy days (Image: G. Bell/Alamy)

EU states have agreed to water down a proposed law aimed at halving the number of deaths from air pollution within 15 years, after intense lobbying from the UK that cross-party MEPs have condemned as “appalling”.

Some 14,000 people will die prematurely every year across Europe from 2030 as a result, if the weakened proposal is implemented, according to figures cited by the environment commissioner, Karmenu Vella.

The revised proposal is likely to be rejected by the European parliament next week, setting the scene for a public row on 20 June, when Europe’s environment ministers meet to thrash out a compromise.

But EU diplomats said that the UK had been a key player in crafting a blocking minority to kill a more ambitious proposal to bring in measures that would result in a 52% improvement in pollution-related health impacts for citizens around Europe. This translates as a reduction in deaths from conditions such as stroke, heart disease and asthma.

One diplomat said:

“They [the UK] gathered some of the environmental attaches in Brussels who they thought would be most willing to follow their line and weaken the directive. They talked to big countries, such as France and Italy, and I think they also discussed with the strongest ones in eastern Europe, like Poland.”

Seb Dance, the Labour parliamentary group’s environmental lead, said the UK was

“a leading proponent of watering down the proposed target and [also] seems to be playing a leading role in the coalition of the unwilling”.

Read more: The Guardian

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