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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 8 January 2013

Environment: Europeans call for stronger EU air quality policy

According to the latest research, a majority (56 %) of Europeans believe that air quality has deteriorated in the last 10 years. In Italy, as many as 81 % hold this view, and in Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, Romania and Spain, 70-75 % of survey participants believe that this is the case. The research – a Eurobarometer called Attitudes of Europeans towards Air Quality – shows strong support for further action at EU level. Almost four out of five participants (79 %) believe that the EU should propose additional measures to address air pollution. The survey specifically asked participants if they were aware of EU air quality standards and national emission ceilings, and out of those who know about these instruments (25 % in both cases), more than half (58 % and 51 %) were of the view that they should be strengthened. The findings will now feed into an on-going review on EU air policy by the Commission which is due for the second half of 2013.

Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment, said "Citizens want us to act and we will respond by reviewing our air policy in 2013. They are asking for more measures in key sectors, and better information on policy effectiveness. To meet these challenges we need to work together at all policy levels – and follow up with action on the ground."

The survey reveals widespread dissatisfaction with actions currently being taken to address air quality problems, with seven out of ten Europeans (72%) considering themselves unhappy with efforts by public authorities to improve air quality. The survey also shows a general sense that the level of information about air quality is insufficient; almost six out of ten (59%) Europeans do not feel adequately informed about air quality issues, with 31 % of participants in Spain and 27 % in Luxemburg, Cyprus and Latvia of the view that they are not informed at all.

When asked about the most effective way to tackle air pollution, 43 % suggest stricter emission controls on industry and energy production. Emissions from vehicles (96 %), industry (92 %) and international transport (86 %) are considered to have the biggest influence on air pollution.

Impacts of air pollution on health and nature are also a cause for concern. Almost 9 out of 10 Europeans believe that air quality-related diseases such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases are a serious problem. Around 8 out of ten consider acidification and eutrophication as serious problems.

Electric cars and hybrid electric/gasoline cars are considered the most beneficial to air quality, and electricity the most environmentally friendly household heating system, followed by wood biomass, gas, and pellets biomass. Seven out of ten believe that renewable energy should be prioritised as the main energy option in future. Some 85 % of Europeans agree with the so-called "polluter pays" principle, whereby those who pollute should also pay for the costs for negative impacts for health and the environment. When asked what could be done at a personal level to improve air quality, most participants (63 %) identified reducing their car use and replacing old energy-using equipment with more efficient models (54 %) as the most important individual actions to take.


Despite progress in recent years, several air quality standards are still widely exceeded in the EU's most densely populated areas, especially from pollutants such as particulate matter, ground-level ozone, and nitrogen dioxide. 2013 will be a year in which the Commission's current air policy is reviewed, with a focus on finding ways to improve the quality of the air we breathe.

As part of the review, the Commission has also launched an online stakeholder consultation, where EU citizens, organisations and companies can provide their views and ideas on options for the air policy review. The online consultation is open until 4 March 2013 and can be found at the following link:

A first online stakeholder consultation was carried out in 2011, and the report can be found here:

This Eurobarometer survey on air quality, in which and more than 25.000 EU citizens in all Member States were asked a number of questions on the topic of air quality, was carried out in autumn 2012. The results will feed into the on-going review of EU air policy.

For more information:

For more details on EU air policy see:

For the full Eurobarometer results, see:

Contacts :

Joe Hennon (+32 2 295 35 93)

Monica Westeren (+32 2 299 18 30)

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