Nine EU Member States have asked the European Commission for permission to pollute above national limits set in EU law.
Austria, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Ireland and Luxembourg have all asked for the limits that should have been met in 2015 to be raised so that they no longer appear to have breached them.
The European Union’s National Emission Ceilings Directive sets absolute caps for the amount of pollution allowed by any one country within a year. These caps are designed to work in tandem with European air quality rules, currently breached in 130 cities in 23 Member States, that should protect citizens by limiting the concentration of pollution of the air we breathe ‘on the street’.
Governments can request exceptions to the national caps for previous years, called ‘inventory adjustments’, if certain circumstances apply. Such moves have been labelled as ‘get out of jail free cards’ because they allow Member States to avoid repercussions for breaching otherwise binding limits.
The requests are criticised in a letter sent to Commissioner Vella from the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), ClientEarth, Transport & Environment, AirClim and the Health and Environment Alliance.