EU proposes unique plan to cope with air pollution by 2020

The European Union head office proposed unique plan to cut back air pollution, which it claims kills 370,000 EU citizens every year.

The proposal, however, will cost industry and governments US$8.6 billion a year to implement new restrictions or limits on everything from car emissions to pesticides.

Plans to present the environmental package in June were shelved after heavy lobbying from industry groups convinced top EU officials to scale back the changes, arguing that the original cost to industry - US$14.6 billion per year - was too high.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said the plans to cut air pollution across the EU by 2020, if approved by EU governments, "will enable Europe to have one of the most advanced air policies to secure better and cleaner air for European citizens, decreasing the various risks connected with air pollution."

He acknowledged that the new plan was a "compromise proposal" with considerably lower costs for industry but said it did not considerably compromise the health aspects of the original.

The EU head office and other international organizations have warned that the air quality in Europe is leading to some 370,000 premature deaths every year. The World Health Organization has said that the 25-nation bloc can save up to US$196 billion a year in health costs by reducing air-pollution deaths.

The Commission said human health damage from air pollution is estimated to cost the European economy between US$519 billion and US$960 billion a year.

The EU head office said it estimates its environmental package will deliver savings of around US$51 billion per year "through fewer premature deaths, less sickness, fewer hospital admissions (and) improved labor productivity."

At the heart of the new strategy lies reducing the use of all major pollutants focusing on airborne particles emitted directly into the air.

The plans include proposals to introduce new standards on car emissions, setting a cap on concentrations of smog in cities, the AP reports.

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