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On the 16th December, the EU Environment Ministers’ decision on the National Emissions Ceilings Directive failed to protect the health of millions of people across the EU. The state of the negotiations took a turn for the worse at the Council of Environment Ministers and leaves EPHA and many other NGOs completely dissatisfied.

Although the battle for better air has come a long way since January 2015, when Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans proposed to drop the proposal to revise the National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive, the state of the negotiations took a turn for the worse at the Council of Environment Ministers and leaves EPHA and many other NGOs completely dissatisfied.

On the 16th December, the EU Environment Ministers’ decision on the National Emissions Ceilings Directive failed to protect the health of millions of people across the EU. Environment Ministers have taken a considerably weaker position than that voted by the European Parliament plenary in October, which called for a series of reduction commitments from 2020 to 2030 on a range of health damaging pollutants including methane and ammonia.

The Environment Ministers’ position though, would see the NEC Directive lose most of its ambition. Some countries, notably Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland and the Czech Republic openly criticised the lower level of ambition (but still supported the deal). But a remarkable coalition-of-the-unwilling of Austria, Denmark, Germany and Poland voted against the text, mainly in protest against proposed ammonia limits.

The position seems to be ignoring not only the example set by the Parliament, but also the all-too-recent Volkswagen scandal, the adoption of the global climate deal at the UNFCCC COP in Paris, and an open letter by 17 NGOs addressed to Environment Ministers, stressing the need to keep methane and mercury in the text, including legally binding targets, supporting greater emission reduction commitments and rejecting unnecessary flexibilities.

“Environment Ministers are sending a clear signal that they don’t care about our health” said Nina Renshaw of EPHA, “Future generations will continue to suffer bad air. The Parliament needs to remind Environment Ministers of their duties to ensure the final deal is credible.”

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