Parliament votes to strengthen air quality laws

Civil society welcomes the positive outcome of the vote on the proposed Ambient Air Quality Directives (AAQD).

On Wednesday 24 April, 2023, the European Parliament approved the final text on the proposed AAQD¹, ensuring strengthened air quality standards for EU citizens.

While air pollution has been reduced over the last decade, current levels remain too high². The revised AAQD will play a fundamental role in filling in the gaps that have been identified during the years of implementation of the existing directives, including through the dedicated Fitness Check process, and to make the instrument aligned with what science says.

Margherita Tolotto, Policy Manager Air and Noise, European Environmental Bureau, said:

“Today’s vote in the European Parliament is a step towards cleaner air, a step forward for all EU citizens and beyond. We thank all MEPs who have listened to science and to civil society.

Still, some MEPs have chosen to vote against human health and environmental protection. With the European elections approaching, we call on EU citizens to be aware about how their national MEPs have voted. When voting for the new Parliament later in June it is important for citizens to know who are the ones standing up for their right to health and the environment and those who are not³. We need true protectors to be representing EU citizens!”

Ugo Taddei, Lawyer, ClientEarth, said:

“This European Parliament has done its part to secure this once-in-a-generation law to protect people’s health from dirty air, but the work to turn words into action must now begin. We now need to see public authorities across the EU take concrete action to implement the law so that the bloc’s most vulnerable inhabitants can finally breathe healthy air.”

Ebba Malmqvist, Air Pollution & Climate Secretariat (AirClim), said:

“Today we celebrate a step in the right direction of protecting the air we breathe in Europe from toxic air pollutants. When implemented the new air quality standards will lead to a large reduction in the tremendous health impact we are experience today.”

Zachary Azdad, Vehicles Policy Officer, Transport & Environment, said: 

“Adopting this deal is a major step forward for air quality in Europe, as it guarantees that concrete action is taken when air quality standards are breached. Ambitious low-emission zones and support for EV adoption as well walking, cycling and public transport are needed now more than ever to clean up our cities and towns.”


With the adoption of this provisional agreement, only a couple of procedural steps remain before the new AAQD becomes EU law. First, within a corrigendum procedure to adopt the text in all official languages, a vote in the Parliament is scheduled on 2 October 2024. With the Council needing all EU official language versions of the text to proceed with its final vote, this can only happen following the October Parliament vote. The text will then appear in the EU Official Journal.





  1. The Ambient Air Quality Directive (AAQD) is a cornerstone of European Union legislation aimed at regulating and improving air quality across Member States. Its primary objective is to protect human health and the environment by setting specific air quality standards and emission limits for various air pollutants, including particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), lead (Pb), benzene, and ozone (O3). In October 2022, the European Commission proposed a revised AAQD, with air quality limit values for PM2.5 and NO2 twice the value of the WHO guidelines, to be met by 2030. A clear pathway for full alignment with the WHO’s guidelines was missing.
  2. Air pollution is responsible for around 300,000 premature deaths annually in Europe, making it the foremost environmental threat to our health. Air pollution contributes to a wide range of health issues, including heart attacks, strokes, respiratory problems, diabetes, dementia, delayed cognitive development in children and lung cancer.
  3. The Vote Nature Alliance has developed a ranking of EU political groups and national parties based on voting records on climate, nature and pollution.
Parliament votes to strengthen air quality laws
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