Sat. Apr 1st, 2023

Brussels, 26 October 2022

Today the Commission is proposing stronger rules on ambient air, surface and groundwater pollutants, and treatment of urban wastewater. Clean air and water are essential for the health of people and ecosystems. Air pollution alone means nearly 300,000 Europeans die prematurely each year, and the proposed new rules will reduce deaths resulting from levels of the main pollutant PM2.5 above World Health Organization guidelines by more than 75% in ten years. Across air and water, all of the new rules provide clear return on investment thanks to benefits in health, energy savings, food production, industry, and biodiversity. Learning the lessons from current laws, the Commission proposes to both tighten allowed levels of pollutants and to improve implementation to ensure pollution reduction goals are more often reached in practice. Today’s proposals are a key advance for the European Green Deal‘s zero pollution ambition of having an environment free of harmful pollution by 2050. They also respond to specific demands of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said:

Our health depends on our environment. An unhealthy environment has direct and costly consequences for our health. Each year, hundreds of thousands Europeans die prematurely and many more suffer from heart- and lung diseases or pollution-induced cancers. The longer we wait to reduce this pollution, the higher the costs to society. By 2050, we want our environment to be free of harmful pollutants. That means we need to step up action today. Our proposals to further reduce water and air pollution are a crucial piece of that puzzle.

Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, said:

The quality of the air we breathe and the water we use is fundamental for our lives and the future of our societies. Polluted air and water harm our health and our economy and the environment, affecting the vulnerable most of all. It is therefore our duty to clean up air and water for our own and future generations. The cost of inaction is far greater than the cost of prevention. That is why the Commission is acting now to ensure coordinated action across the Union to better tackle pollution at source – locally and cross-border.”

Cleaner ambient air by 2030, zero pollution aim by 2050

The proposed revision of the Ambient Air Quality Directives will set interim 2030 EU air quality standards, aligned more closely with World Health Organization guidelines, while putting the EU on a trajectory to achieve zero pollution for air at the latest by 2050, in synergy with climate-neutrality efforts. To this end, we propose a regular review of the air quality standards to reassess them in line with latest scientific evidence as well as societal and technological developments. The annual limit value for the main pollutant – fine particulate matter (PM2.5) – is proposed to be cut by more than half.

The revision will ensure that people suffering health damages from air pollution have the right to be compensated in the case of a violation of EU air quality rules. They will also have the right to be represented by non-governmental organisation through collective actions for damage compensation. The proposal will also bring more clarity on access to justice, effective penalties, and better public information on air quality. New legislation will support local authorities by strengthening the provisions on air quality monitoring, modelling, and improved air quality plans.

Today’s proposals leave it to national and local authorities to determine the specific measures they would take to meet the standards. At the same time, existing and new EU policies in environment, energy, transport, agriculture, R&I and other fields will make a significant contribution, as detailed in the factsheet.

Today’s proposal will help achieve dramatic improvement in air quality around Europe by 2030, leading to gross annual benefits estimated at €42 billion up to €121 billion in 2030, for less than a €6 billion costs annually.

Air pollution is the greatest environmental threat to health and a leading cause of chronic diseases, including stroke, cancer and diabetes. It is unavoidable for all Europeans and disproportionately affects sensitive and vulnerable social groups. Polluted air also harms the environment causing acidification, eutrophication and damage to forests, ecosystems and crops.

Better and more cost-effective treatment of urban wastewater

The revised Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive will help Europeans benefit from cleaner rivers, lakes, groundwaters and seas, while making wastewater treatment more cost-effective. To make the best possible use of wastewater as a resource, it is proposed to aim for energy-neutrality of the sector by 2040, and improve the quality of sludge to allow for more reuse contributing thus to a more circular economy.

Several improvements will support health and environmental protection. These include obligations to recover nutrients from wastewater, new standards for micropollutants and new monitoring requirements for microplastics. Obligations to treat water will be extended to smaller municipalities with 1,000 inhabitants (from 2,000 inhabitants currently). To help manage heavy rains, made more frequent by climate change, there is a requirement to establish integrated water management plans in larger cities. Finally, building upon the Covid-19 experience, the Commission proposes to systematically monitor wastewater for several viruses, amongst which CoV-SARS-19, and anti-microbial resistance.

EU countries will be required to ensure access to sanitation for all, in particular vulnerable and marginalised groups.

As 92% toxic micro-pollutants found in EU wastewaters come from pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, a new Extended Producer Responsibility scheme will require producers to pay for the cost of removing them. This is in line with the ‘polluter pays’ principle and it will also incentivise research and innovation into toxic-free products, as well as making financing of wastewater treatment fairer.

The wastewater sector has significant untapped renewable energy production potential, for example from biogas.  EU countries will be required to track industrial pollution at source to increase the possibilities of re-using sludge and treated wastewater, avoiding the loss of resources. Rules on recovering phosphorus from sludge will support their use to make fertiliser, benefiting food production.

The changes are estimated to increase costs by 3.8% (to €3.8 billion a year in 2040) for a benefit of over €6.6 billion a year, with a positive cost-benefit ratio in each Member State.

Protection of surface and groundwater against new pollutants

Based on up-to-date scientific evidence, the Commission is proposing to update lists of water pollutants to be more strictly controlled in surface waters and groundwater.

25 substances with well-documented problematic effects on nature and human health will be added to the lists. These include:

  • PFAS, a large group of “forever chemicals” used among others in cookware, clothing and furniture, fire-fighting foam and personal care products;
  • a range of pesticides and pesticide degradation products, such as glyphosate;
  • Bisphenol A, a plasticiser and a component of plastic packaging;
  • some pharmaceuticals used as painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs, as well as antibiotics.

The substances and their standards have been selected in a transparent and science-driven process.

In addition, learning the lessons from incidents such as the mass death of fish in the Oder river, the Commission proposes mandatory downstream river basin warnings after incidents. There are also improvements to monitoring, reporting, and easier future updates of the list to keep up with science.

The new rules recognise the cumulative or combined effects of mixtures, broadening the current focus which is on individual substances solely.

In addition, standards for 16 pollutants already covered by the rules, including heavy metals and industrial chemicals, will be updated (mostly tightened) and four pollutants that are no longer an EU-wide threat will be removed.

Next steps

The proposals will now be considered by the European Parliament and the Council in the ordinary legislative procedure. Once adopted, they will take effect progressively, with different targets for 2030, 2040, and 2050 – giving industry and authorities time to adapt and invest where necessary. 

For more information 

Surface water and groundwater pollutants:

Questions and Answers on Surface water and groundwater pollutants

Factsheet on Surface water and groundwater pollutants

Proposals for a revision of the List of Groundwater and Surface Water Pollutants

Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive:

Questions and Answers on the Review of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive

Factsheet on the Review of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive

Proposal for a revision of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive

EU Ambient Air Quality Legislation:

Questions and Answers on the Revision of EU ambient air quality legislation

Factsheet on the Revision of EU ambient air quality legislation

Proposal on a revision of Air Quality Legislation

European Green Deal – Policies for Improving Air Quality:

Factsheet on the European Green Deal – Policies for Improving Air Quality 

Source – EU Commisison

Q&A: New EU rules on surface water and groundwater pollution


Brussels, 26 October 2022

Why are up-to-date water pollution rules important?

Europe’s almost 100,000 surface water bodies (streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, and reservoirs) and 12,000 groundwater bodies are vital as a source of drinking water, for healthy ecosystems and biodiverse nature, for farmers and industry, as a means of transportation and are indispensable for electricity and heat production. Since the early and mid-2000s, the Water Framework Directive, jointly with the Environmental Quality Standards Directive for surface waters, and Groundwater Directive, have provided the framework for their sustainable management.

Water can become unsafe and unfit for human use or irrigation when certain pollutants (also called ‘substances of concern’), such as pesticides, fertilisers, chemicals and salts enter the groundwater, as well as surface water bodies at levels above certain thresholds. The massive death of fish in the Oder river this summer underlined the importance of protecting our rivers and making them more resilient, as the combination of extreme climatic circumstances and pollution can quickly create biodiversity tipping points.

Rules need to be adapted regularly to allow authorities to respond to current and future pollution threats, both nationally and across borders. New scientific evidence is helping us better understand the health and environmental impacts of chemical substances or their mixtures.

The current legislation lists several polluting substances and groups of substances, as well as quality standards, or threshold values for each, that EU countries need to respect. So far, 53 substances have been included at EU level, mainly pesticides, industrial chemicals and metals for surface water, next to nitrates and active substances in pesticides for groundwater. However, this list of pollutants is incomplete as it omits some emerging substances with significant negative effects on the environment and human health. At the same time, some of the still listed substances are no longer present in significant quantities in the environment, and for others, the standards do not correspond to the latest evidence.

Finally,the Fitness Check of water legislation conducted in 2019 highlighted some other shortcomings in the way water pollution is monitored and reported on and the current proposal for revision addresses several of these shortcomings.

What does the Commission want to achieve with this proposal?

The Commission aims to protect European citizens and natural ecosystems from risks posed by pollutants and their mixtures by setting new standards for a series of such substances in surface and groundwater. There are also rules to make sure the standards are more often reached in practice.

More specifically, the proposal will:

  • reduce concentrations of acutely toxic and/or persistent chemicals in surface and groundwater. Benefits will include reduced impacts on the environment, human health, pollinators and agriculture. The proposal complements other measures such as the recently proposed Sustainable use of pesticides Regulation, and the proposal for a revised legislation on wastewater that the Commission is also adopting today.
  • improve the quality of oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, estuaries, and wetlands and of the services they deliver such as clean water, rich soils and a high biodiversity;
  • limit or avoid future costs of water treatment by reducing pollution at the source;
  • make chemical monitoring data more easily available, accessible and re-usable which will be useful for a better safety assessment of chemicals altogether;
  • require that Member State authorities warn immediately downstream Member States in the same river basin, as well as the Commission, in case of exceptional circumstances of natural origin or force majeure, in particular extreme floods, prolonged droughts, or significant pollution incidents. This will provide faster and better response to events such as the Oder river pollution from summer 2022;
  •  work on tools to monitor and develop a policy response to problematic substances, such as microplastics and antimicrobial genes;
  • support the‘one substance, one assessment approach’ where the same chemical is evaluated in the same way regarding the risk it poses by different EU laws and policies to limit regulatory burden;
  • ensure more dynamic and up-to-date information on water status facilitated by the European Environment Agency.

The new rules recognise the cumulative or combined effects of mixtures shifting away from the current focus on individual substances solely. Furthermore, the proposal for new rules takes account of seasonal variations in the amount of pollution, such as in the case of pesticides used by farmers during planting seasons.

Member States will be required to take measures to reduce the presence of these pollutants. This means they need to broaden their monitoring programmes and take measures such as changing permits for industry, organising separate collection of pharmaceuticals, setting rules for the application of pesticides by farmers and households, or cleaning sediments and soil to avoid water pollution.

What are the key benefits of the proposed rules?

For citizens, the proposed rules will better protect human health against the effects of a range of pollutants, for example by reducing antimicrobial resistance. The new measures will also make the financing of water treatment fairer in line with the ‘polluter pays’ principle. Preventive measures by industry (using different or fewer industrial chemicals) or farmers (for example by using other, or fewer pesticides) will make it easier for wastewater treatment plants or drinking water producers to clean water to legal standards.

For the water sector, the revision will ensure the ‘raw’ water they need to clean, or use as a resource, will increasingly require less treatment, thus keeping related costs under control.

Overall, the benefits of applying these new rules will be much greater than the cost: healthcare costs and the cost of treating water and sludge will be lower, and ecosystems will be healthier. For example, PFAS exposure has been estimated to cost between € 52-84 billion in annual health costs in Europe (for instance related to diseases such as high cholesterol, immune system effects and cancer), while diclofenac can affect the development, growth and immune system of aquatic animals and mammals.

Alongside other EU legislation, already in place or planned under the European Green Deal, this initiative will generate significant benefits for European society and the environment.

How do these revised rules link to the revised Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive and Drinking Water Directive?

The proposal is fully consistent with other legislation in the water area, as well as other European Green Deal policies aiming at reducing pollution to a net zero by 2050. As regards the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (UWWTD), for which a proposal for revision is presented at the same time as this proposal, micro-pollutants are a key challenge. The need to remove them at wastewater treatment facilities drives up the cost of treatment, and removal is not always possible. This proposal therefore aims to reduce emissions at source, for example when national authorities set conditions for industries to operate through permits.

The current proposal is also consistent with the recently revised Drinking Water Directive, which enters into force in 2023. By aiming to reduce pollution of surface and groundwaters, it will protect vital drinking water sources and reduce the cost of treatment. The Drinking Water Directive and this proposal address a wide range of pollutants, in particular pesticides, pharmaceuticals and the group of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

For more information

Press release

Questions and Answers on the Review of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive

Questions and Answers on the Revision of EU Ambient Air Quality Legislation

Factsheet on Surface water and groundwater pollutants

Proposals for a revision of the List of Groundwater and Surface Water Pollutants

Source – EU Commission

Q&A: New air quality rules

Brussels, 26 October 2022

Why do EU rules on air quality need to be modernised, and why now?

About 300 000 premature deaths per year and a significant number of non-communicable diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular problems and lung cancer are attributed to air pollution. Air pollution continues to be the number one environmental cause of early death in the EU. In this regard, the worst pollutants are particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone.

While air pollution affects all of us, it has the biggest impact on the most vulnerable and sensitive groups of society: children, people with medical conditions, older persons, and those living in poorer socio-economic conditions as they often live in areas with higher levels of air pollution.

In addition, air pollution threatens the environment through acidification, eutrophication, and ozone damage, causing damage to forests, ecosystems and crops. When ecosystems already suffer from excessive nitrogen levels in water, nitrogen deposition from air adds further pollution. Today, eutrophication exceeds critical loads in two thirds of ecosystem areas across the EU. This has a significant impact on biodiversity and the services it delivers for us all.

The last update to the Ambient Air Quality Directives dates back to 2008. Since then, new scientific evidence about the health impacts of air pollution has become available. The revised WHO Air Quality Guidelines published in September 2021 recommend introducing stricter air quality standards.

The evaluation (fitness check) of the Ambient Air Quality Directives showed that the current Directives helped to reduce air pollution. Compared to the 1990s, there are about 70% fewer early deaths attributable to air pollution. But Europe’s air is still too polluted, to the detriment of our health and environment.

What are the main changes proposed and how will they improve air quality?

Together with other EU policies, the proposed directive will reduce the number of premature deaths attributable to the main air pollutant – fine particulate matter (PM2.5) – by more than 75% in ten years. It will also reduce the amount and gravity of diseases that are caused or made worse by air pollution, such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. This will particularly benefit the most sensitive and vulnerable populations.

The proposed revision will set interim 2030 EU air quality standards, aligned more closely with WHO recommendations, while putting the EU on a trajectory to achieve zero pollution for air at the latest by 2050, in synergy with climate-neutrality efforts. To this end, we propose a regular review of the air quality standards to reassess them in line with latest scientific evidence as well as societal and technological developments. The first review will take place by the end of 2028, with the objective in particular to ensuring full alignment with WHO recommendations.

For instance, the annual limit value for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) will be reduced by more than half in 2030, from 25 µg/m³ to 10 µg/m³ in 2030.

The revision will ensure that people suffering health damages from air pollution have the right to be compensated in the case of a violation of EU air quality rules. They will also have the right to be represented by non-governmental organisations through collective actions for damage compensation. The proposal will also bring more clarity on access to justice, effective penalties, and better public information on air quality.

Improved rules on air quality monitoring and modelling will make it possible to check compliance with standards more closely, also at lower concentrations levels now known to be harmful too, and support more efficient and effective action to prevent and address breaches of standards.

The proposed legislation will better support local authorities in achieving cleaner air. In addition to addressing exceedances of air quality standards, the proposal requires preventive air quality plans when there is a risk of exceeding a limit value in 2030.

The revision will also streamline and simplify the current laws, merging the current two air quality directives into one.

The proposal will not prescribe specific measures to be taken, it sets air quality standards to be achieved everywhere. Member States will continue to be responsible for choosing the most appropriate measures to achieve air quality standards and adapting these to national and local circumstances.

What are the costs of air pollution to society and what will be the benefits of the revision?

In total, the impacts of air pollution cost society an estimated €231 to 853 billion per year, including €8 billion for lost workdays alone. The EU economy is also directly affected, with damage to buildings, ecosystems, crop yields and forests also running into tens of billions per year.

Overall, the costs for achieving the new standards are expected to remain well below 0.1% of GDP, and the benefits to economy and society outweigh the costs by at least a factor of 7. Important co-benefits from other policies such as climate action will substantially lower the cost of improving air quality. Industry output and crop production are expected to increase, while costs for respecting the new standards are expected to decrease over time.

By 2030, total gross benefits for society are estimated at €42 to 121 billion per year, compared to a total cost of €5.7 billion per year for mitigation measures and related administrative costs.

How did the Commission define the 2030 standards?

The standards proposed for 2030 are based on an assessment of health impacts, technical feasibility and socioeconomic impacts. They take into account the contributions of related existing and proposed new policies, such as on climate, energy, transport and environment, notably the Fit for 55 climate package with its actions on energy efficiency and renewable energy, RePowerEU, theMethane Strategy, theSustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, theBiodiversity Strategyand the Farm to Fork initiative. Furthermore, reductions of vehicle emissions are expected to result from the implementation of new vehicle emission standards, where the Commission is currently working on new proposals.

What are the international implications of the revision and how is the EU working to improve air quality internationally?

By raising its own air quality standards shortly after the revised WHO standards, the EU leads by example. The EU will continue to promote clean air policy internationally, both via bilateral and multilateral action. This includes the neighbourhood policy, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Air Convention, strategic partnerships around the world and in international fora and organisations such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Arctic Council. The EU provides capacity-building support, shares know-how and promotes stricter rules and more ambitious clean air commitments.

Notably, the EU plays an important role in the UNECE Air Convention, the most advanced international legal framework on clean air issues. The EU and all Member States are parties to the Convention and the EU is party to all its latest protocols, such as the Gothenburg Protocol that set emission ceilings.

Air pollution from EU sources also impacts air quality in neighbouring regions. A more ambitious Ambient Air Quality Directive will not only ensure cleaner air within the EU but also contribute to less air pollution in other regions.

Overall economic benefits of the revision will support competitiveness of the EU economy, such as through reduced healthcare costs, less workdays lost and less damage to crops, forests and buildings. In addition, cleaner air will contribute to making European cities a more attractive place to live and do business.

For More Information 

Press release

Questions and Answers on new EU rules on surface water and groundwater pollution

Questions and Answers on the Review of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive

Factsheet on the Revision of EU Ambient Air Quality Legislation

Proposal on a revision of Air Quality Legislation

Source – EU Commission

Executive Vice-President Timmermans’ and Commissioner Sinkevičius’ remarks on the new legislative proposals: the Zero Pollution Package

Brussels, 26 October 2022


“Check against delivery”

Executive Vice-President Timmermans

Onto our proposals to tackle pollution, to have less people die prematurely, and with which billions of euros can be saved.

The European Green Deal aims for an environment that’s free of harmful pollution by 2050. Because getting to climate neutrality is about more than pushing down greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why we call it climate neutrality and not just carbon neutrality.

To have a zero-pollution environment in 2050, we need to step up action today.

We have ample reason to do so.

Each year about 300.000 Europeans die prematurely as a result of air pollution. Many more suffer from lung diseases or pollution-induced cancers. So, this is also completely in line with our strategy to attack cancer and to make sure that we have a European policy on cancer. This is very dear as you know to our President.

Day in, day out, we get new information about the degree to which public health is directly endangered by pollution. Babies now have microplastics in their blood. And there’s PFAS in self-caught fish and homegrown vegetables.

The directives we are revising now are outdated, one even 30 years old. Scientific knowledge and technology have advanced, and we need to bring our legislation up to par.

Moreover, we pay for pollution.

With taxes, health, and human lives – we pay.

And the longer we wait to reduce this pollution, the higher the costs to society.

Today’s proposals tackle pollution at both sides: first we prevent, and when pollution does occur, those who created it should pay for cleaning up.

Let me give you a little more detail on each of the three proposals.

First, we need to bring our air pollution norms in line with the new WHO standards. Already now, this will take well over a decade to achieve. We will set stricter norms for fine particulate matter, or PM 2.5 – cutting the maximum allowed level by more than half by 2030. Air pollution standards to date have not been easily enforceable, so we’re also tackling this and ensuring there will be easier access to justice for those affected by poor air quality.

We also need to update our frameworks for water pollution and urban wastewater. The massive death of fish this summer in the Oder river shows how the combination of climate extremes and pollution can create tipping points for biodiversity.

In our proposals today, we add 25 new substances to the directive on integrated water management. They all have carefully calibrated limit values which stipulate maximum levels for substances that pollute our waters. These norms will also take into account combination effects, reflecting scientific progress.

On urban wastewater, we start to monitor microplastics release and create the European framework to routinely monitor pathogens like covid-19. This is something we have learned during the pandemic: wastewaters were a great indicator and a great way of pinpointing where we needed to be active to combat these pathogens.

So, we will provide rules to stimulate the recovery of crucial minerals and nutrients from sludge and make wastewater treatment plants a source of renewable energy. It is a good business model.

And we introduce the polluter pays principle. Right now, residues from pharmaceutical products and cosmetics cause 73% of pollution in urban wastewater. The costs of removing these are borne by water companies and ultimately of course by taxpayers.

Let me finish by emphasizing that a toxic-free environment demands that all related policies maintain and deliver the required level of ambition. A healthy, zero-pollution future is possible if we say goodbye to fossil fuels, move to clean mobility, sustainable agriculture, healthy diets, etcetera.

In the end, this is about protecting our health and that of the environment, against costs that are already borne by society.

And if we learned one thing from the pandemic, our citizens want us to do this. That is why the Commission today is delivering on this.


Commmissioner Sinkevičius

Good afternoon everyone.

Today we took another big step forward for citizens’ health, health of our environment, sustainable development of our economy and for the European Green Deal.

As you know, this Commission has a zero pollution ambition, as part of the deal. We have already delivered half of actions foreseen in the Zero Pollution Action Plan.

But if we want to see pollution come down to levels that no longer harm human health or the environment, there is still a huge amount of work to do.

What we are presenting today has three major components, one to improve air quality, one to address freshwater quality, and one to modernise wastewater treatment.

Let’s start with the air.

This is an area where we have already seen major improvements thanks to EU policies. Nevertheless air pollution is still the largest environmental threat to our health and a serious challenge to our economies.

The impacts are worst for the most vulnerable ones, notably children, the elderly, people with certain medical conditions and the economically disadvantaged. It’s clear that we need to do more here, and that we need to act with determination.

What we propose is to set interim 2030 targets, to align EU air quality standards more closely with the recommendations of the World Health Organisation. At the same time, we are setting the EU on a trajectory to achieve zero pollution for air at the latest by 2050, through regular reviews of those standards to take into account scientific and technological progress.

When you add this revision to existing policies, the result will be at least 70% less premature deaths from bad air quality in the next ten years.

Nearly 300,000 Europeans die prematurely each year as a result of air pollution, so this is a huge number of lives we aim to save.

These new rules will be easier to enforce, and – very importantly – will provide citizens with strong tools to claim justice.

Because fresh air should not be something luxurious. It must be taken as a basic human right.

Thus we want to give citizens a collective right to claim compensation when their health has suffered as a result of laws not being enforced, for air and waste water.

At the same time we’re harmonising the rules for competent authorities, so that they can impose more dissuasive penalties against polluters who breach air quality measures at the national or local level.

We are also proposing to strengthen the rules for monitoring and modelling air quality, and improve the framework for air quality plans. And we are strengthening the way Member States need to cooperate in tackling cross-border cases.

As I said, this is good for human health and the environment.

And it will also relieve the economy of the cost burden from illness, lower productivity, loss of crop yields and damages to materials and ecosystems. The benefits are at least 7 times greater than the costs.

The second proposal is for freshwater.

Indeed, the incident in Oder river is a good example what can happen if you fail to protect a river from pollution in times of drought. Reducing pollution means making rivers more resilient.

Today it’s still a case that pharmaceuticals, pesticides and PFAS, the ‘forever chemicals’ can be found in Europe’s freshwaters, at levels that endanger the aquatic environment.

So we’re raising the standards for rivers, lakes and groundwaters, as part of our drive towards zero pollution.

Key changes include tackling new pollution threats by bringing their concentrations down to safe levels, introducing an early warning mechanism for water pollution, increasing the availability and transparency of pollution data and requiring Member States to alert each other about pollution events, avoiding situations like we saw with the Oder.

The benefits will be significant, for water, soil, and human health.

The third proposal is for a revision of a major piece of legislation, which has already brought enormous benefits to European citizens – the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive.

What we propose will save energy and produce renewable energy, including “green” biogas, and reduce the sector’s emissions by almost fifty percent by 2040.

As a matter of fact, our goal is energy neutrality for the sector by 2040.

We’re also bringing in new rules to reduce micropollutant emissions, in line with the ones identified in the freshwater proposal.

And I want to stress what Frans already said – for two categories which typically reach freshwaters from waste water treatment plants – pharmaceuticals and personal care products – producers will be required to contribute to the cost of cleaning waste water.

That way we avoid taxpayers having to pay those costs in full.

High standards for air and water quality are wonderful. But on their own, they’re not enough. We have to make sure that they are implemented effectively on the ground.

So all three of these proposals share one common feature.

And that is, they all come with suggestions for improving their enforcement.

The result should be laws that are more effective, with what actually amounts to a reduction in the administrative burden for Member States.

Delivering zero pollution is not getting any easier in the geo-political context of today. But we cannot afford to be distracted. If we did start to deviate from our long-term path to zero pollution, the consequences would be very serious and very real.

Europe needs these improvements. Our citizens and science ask for them and so I’m very proud to put this proposal forward.

Thank you.


Source – EU Commission



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