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To: Commissioner Potocnik
Re: Upcoming Commission decision on the revision of the National Emissions Ceilings Directive (NEC)

Commissioner Janez Poto.nik DG Environment European Commission, 1049 Brussels

12 October 2010

Re: Upcoming Commission decision on the revision of the National Emissions Ceilings Directive (NEC)

Dear Commissioner Potocnik,

We understand that the College of European Commissioners will meet in the coming weeks to decide upon the timing for a revision of the National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive and that the long awaited proposition might be postponed until 2013. With this letter, the Health and Environment Allliance HEAL, the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients Associations EFA and the European Respiratory Society ERS would like to highlight our great concerns about such a delay and call upon you to ensure that the NEC Directive will be immediately revised, as provided for by the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution and in order to ensure a high level of health protection and wellbeing of Europeans citizens.

With Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution (2005), the European Union has set ambitious goals for reducing air pollution by 2020. The revision of the NEC Directive was set to be the key instrument to achieve these objectives. However, adoption and publication by the EU Commission of the revision proposal have repeatedly been postponed since 2007. As late as June 2008 the Commission had a draft proposal ready, but decided again to postpone.

Every year, millions of European citizens fall ill because of bad air quality. There is also ample evidence that air pollution aggravates the symptoms and suffering of whose health is already affected . the asthma and allergy patients and people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Recent scientific evidence has also demonstrated the links between air quality and other diseases such as breast cancer and diabetes. Air pollution is estimated to cause half a million premature deaths in Europe per year.

Air Pollution therefore plays a major role in the environmental burden of disease and the rise in chronic diseases in Europe. This has significant implications for public health, and puts yet another strain on EU Member States budgets, which are already under pressure because of the economic crisis. Respiratory diseases are estimated to cause a yearly financial burden of 102 billion EUR in Europe due to healthcare costs and lost working days.

An immediate revision of the NEC directive is therefore a crucial contribution to preventing further rises in diseases and deaths. In order to better protect European citizens health and Europe’s biodiversity, current ceilings need to be revised with increased ambition as soon as possible. The current ceilings are far from sufficient to meet the 2010 interim health and environmental targets laid down in article 5 of the NEC Directive. Also, a revised NEC will finally introduce ceilings for fine particles (PM2.5) the air pollutant estimated to cause the most harm to human health. We see no excuse for further delays, as these ceilings should have already been proposed in 2007.

We would like to highlight that further delays imply huge economic losses for society. The cost benefit analyses available on the European Commission’s website show that the monetised benefits of a revised NEC Directive will outweigh the costs involved by up to 47 times1. A revised NEC directive with ambitious targets can also help to reach the EU climate change policy goals.

The NEC Directive is the key instrument which will allow Europe to reduce the effects of air pollution in Europe. We therefore call upon you to ensure the EU Commission will publish its proposal without any further delay, making clear, positive changes which would benefit every citizen of Europe for the years to come.

In a recent Eurobarometer, EU citizens expressed great concern about the impacts of bad air on their health and expect the EU decisionmakers to act. We hope that you will listen to the voice of EU citizens and the ample public health evidence and tackle a NEC revision as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,

Genon Jensen - Executive Director Health and Environment Alliance

Susanna Palkonen - Executive Officer European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations

Jon Ayres - Chairman European Respiratory Society Environment and Health Committee

1 See cost-benefit analyses published on DG Environment’s website such as the 2008 AEA "NEC CBA report #3"

Last updated on 13 June 2011

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The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »

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