From thelocal.de we find that the EU Commission has been threatening Germany with fines if it does not cut the nitrogen oxide levels which were found to exceed legal limits in 33 of 57 German regions tested, including Berlin, Stuttgart, Munich, Cologne, Dortmund, Düsseldorf and Hamburg.
The article reports that warnings, which were also issued for other European Union countries including Austria, the UK, France and Italy, must now be met with concrete plans to improve air quality and reduce pollution. If levels do not drop below acceptable limits, offenders could face legal action and possible fines from the European Court.
While on the subject of air pollution, the European Envirtonment Agency has today issued calls to reduce the €45 billion health cost of air pollution from lorries. It goes on to say that road charges for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs or lorries) should reflect the varied health effects of traffic pollution in different European countries, meaning charges should be much higher in some countries compared to others. It continues by claiming that overall, air pollution is estimated to cause 3 million sick days and 350 000 premature deaths in Europe.
Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director, is quoted saying: “European economies rely on transporting goods long distances. But there is also a hidden cost, paid in years of reduced health and lost life. This cost is especially high for those living close to Europe’s major transport routes. By incorporating these costs into the price of goods, we can encourage healthier transport methods and cleaner technologies.”. This idea of incorporating the cost of air pollution is but an extension of the polluter pays/user pays principle, a now accepted practice that those who produce pollution should bear the cost.
From the EEA website we also learn that the EEA analysis attempts to capture the complexity of different geographical influences on air pollution across Europe. The report includes the average costs of pollution for 66 separate classes of vehicles, with the cost of each estimated on three different types of road (suburban, interurban and highways) in 30 countries and 108 cities. Estimates of cost per kilometre, depending on the vehicle and its surroundings, range from virtually nothing to over 30 eurocents per km for a non-Euroclass lorry more than 20 years old. European Union Member States must report to the Commission by October this year on how they will implement road charging, if at all. The detailed figures released by EEA are intended to help Member States decide on individual schemes. The high cost of air pollution is in line with a 2011 EEA analysis, which shows that air pollution from large industrial facilities cost Europe € 102 – 169 billion in 2009 in lost life, poor health, crop damage and other economic losses.