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European lawmakers back new limits on key air pollutants

STRASBOURG, Oct. 29 — Members of European Parliament (MEPs) voted on Wednesday, while gathered for a plenary session in Strasbourg, to approve new national caps on the emissions of six essential pollutants as proposed in plans from the European Commission (EC).

The MEPs approved new targets for sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC), methane (CH4), ammonia (NH3) and fine particulates (PM, less than 2.5 micrometers) as set forth by the Commission with deadlines in 2020 and 2030, in compliance with the Gothenburg Protocol, an international air quality agreement signed in 1999.

"Air pollution imposes enormous human and economic costs. It also damages the natural environment, through eutrophication and acid deposition, and it doesn't stop at EU member states' borders," said rapporteur Julie Girling.

According to the EC, the direct costs to European society from air pollution, including damage to crops and buildings, reaches almost 23 billion euros (about USD25 billion) per year, with external health-related costs estimated to be between 330-940 billion euros per year.

The European Environment Agency has warned as well that poor air quality causes up to 400,000 premature deaths per year in the European Union (EU).

Originally, Girling had pushed for stricter emissions targets, but in plenary her fellow parliamentarians voted to approve targets set forth by the Commission.

The assembly was split, however, on the inclusion of methane. MEPs did unite behind the inclusion of ammonia, with those targets to be reviewed in 2020.

Mercury, not originally listed in the Commission's proposals, was included in the report by the Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, but was only partially supported in plenary voting.

"We need to check the implications of the amendments, but it's clear that there was not a majority for having mercury in the proposal," explained Girling during a press conference following the vote.

While approving the new caps, the Parliament also asked the Commission and member states to agree on new Real Driving Emissions (RDE) regulations currently under proposal, and to consider measures to reduce emissions related to international shipping.

A final vote was suspended following a request put forward by the rapporteur, Girling, in order to take the draft resolution into negotiations with the EU Council of Ministers. (PNA/Xinhua)

JBP/EBP

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