11 May 2001

The European Commission adopted the “Clean Air for Europe” (CAFE) program, which will lead to an integrated strategy to effectively combat air pollution by 2004. Besides marking a major further step in the EU’s effort to ensure that all European citizens can breathe clean air, this is also the first of the thematic strategies announced in the Commission’s proposal for a 6th Environmental Action Program.

Many of the existing air quality directives come up for revision by 2004, and the Commission considers that an integrated program is the best way to prepare for this, and it is in this context that it is launching the “Clean Air for Europe” program in order to tackle these challenges in the most efficient way. “The Clean Air for Europe program shows how we want to work with Member States and all stakeholders in developing a thematic strategy. We proposed a number of such strategies in the 6th Action Program three months ago and we are making a start now on the first of them,” said Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström.

The CAFE program will provide the framework within which new air quality standards and national emission ceilings will be set. It will focus especially on particulate matter and ground-level ozone, which have been identified by the Auto-oil II program, finalized last year, as the air pollutants of greatest concern (as distinct from climate change and pollution by man made chemicals). In addition, CAFE will need to address remaining problems relating to acidification, eutrophication and damage to buildings; keep a watchful eye for emerging problems related to currently unregulated pollutants; and pay attention to remaining exceedances of limit values in "hot-spot" areas where emission densities are especially high.

The output of CAFE will be a thematic strategy to be adopted in 2004. This strategy will contain:

  • an in-depth review of the adequacy and effectiveness of existing Community legislation;
  • detailed reference to available air quality and deposition data and indicators for public information;
  • an analysis of the further emission reduction measures that will be required to meet air quality deposition objectives;
  • proposals concerning new or revised directives on air quality and national emission ceilings,
  • a status report on measures to reduce emissions from specific source categories, such as large combustion plants and motor vehicles, and a steer for their further development.

CAFE will prepare the ground for this by providing a structure that allows relevant scientific and technical information - evidence on effects, emission inventories and projections, cost-effectiveness studies for potential abatement measures - to be collected and packaged in a way that is useful for policy makers. As well as preparing for legislative review and the development of measures to reduce emissions from specific source categories, the program will provide a framework for supporting the implementation of existing legislation and evaluating how effective it is in actually reducing air pollution. Through the development and use of indicators and improved accessibility of data it will provide a concrete focus for the sectoral integration strategies and a better means of communication with the general public.

Source: European Commission