The European Commission on Tuesday summoned ministers from nine EU member states for a final chance to pledge how they will tackle air pollution before facing legal action for failing to meet the bloc’s emissions limits.
According to EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella, every year, over 400,000 Europeans die prematurely due to poor air quality, which triggers conditions such as asthma, heart disease and lung cancer.
One of the main pollutants in cities is vehicles, especially those running on diesel fuel.
The nine countries invited to the Brussels talks, Britain, the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, all face court proceedings if they do not take steps to curb emissions.
“It is clear that the agreed air quality limits for several key pollutants had to be met already many years ago,’’ Vella wrote recently, adding that measures introduced or planned by the member states in question “are not enough.”
During the talks, activists from the environmental campaign group Greenpeace protested outside the European Commission with banners demanding “Clean Air Now.”
According to Benjamin Stephen of Greenpeace, car fumes are killing tens of thousands across Europe, accusing governments of failing to take the necessary steps to meet air pollution limits.
“That is criminal, and should be penalised,’’ Stephen added.
German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks has said ahead of Tuesday’s talks that Berlin had failed to take the necessary steps, while also appealing to the car industry to clean up diesel vehicles.