Civil society groups welcomed the conclusions issued by ministers following a meeting in Brussels yesterday. 
The conclusions represent the official position of EU governments following a over two years long assessment of European air quality rules as part of a so-called ‘Fitness Check’ procedure.
The governments agreed with the position that civil society organisations have held since the assessment began: that the current rules are ‘fit for purpose’ but that more needs to be done to ensure the air quality standards they set are met.
Member states acknowledged that ‘action taken at local, national and EU level has not always been sufficient to meet air quality standards’, and that ‘there is scope for improvements to the existing framework to ensure that good air quality is achieved across the EU’.
Margherita Tolotto, Policy Officer for Air and Noise at the EEB, said:
“Our governments must now take concrete actions to cut pollution at source. With toxic air causing 400,000 premature deaths every year in the EU and the solutions also boosting climate action, improving air quality should rank very high in their priority lists.”
Ministers considered it ‘essential to keep using limit values in order to protect the health of citizens’, and agreed on ‘a possible closer alignment of the EU air quality standards with the WHO air quality guidelines’.
“The European Commission must act now to ensure clean air, also using the tools announced via the European Green Deal, but without waiting for the promised zero-pollution action plan due in 2021.“
ClientEarth lawyer Ugo Taddei said:
“Dirty air is an ongoing health crisis in Europe. We have the laws to address it but they can, and should, be strengthened as soon as possible. While the European Commission starts to work on a proposal to align EU air quality standards with the WHO recommendations, it has the power to immediately adopt implementing acts and give clear guidelines to competent authorities to ensure better air quality monitoring and stronger plans to clean up the air.” 
“The European Commission must also not hesitate to take strong legal action against governments failing to meet their existing legal obligation to address illegal levels of air pollution. There is no reason why people in Europe should have to wait any longer to breathe clean, healthy air.”
 Improvement of air quality – Council Conclusions
 EU Commission to get tougher on air quality laggards – Fitness Check concludes