EU’s Zero Pollution Action Plan contributes to the transition to clean air and circular economy


The European Commission published 12th of May its Zero Pollution Action Plan. It aims to eliminate all harmful pollution by 2050 by reducing air, water, and soil pollution to levels “no longer considered harmful to health and natural ecosystems”. It intends to: better prevent and remedy pollution from air, water, soil, and consumer products, mainstream the zero pollution ambition into all policy developments, further decouple economic growth from the increase of pollution and strengthen the links between environmental protection, sustainable development and people’s well-being.

The Action Plan’s new emission limits create green business opportunities as sustainable design and low-emission technology offer opportunities for sustainable innovation, cleaner economic recovery, and EU leadership in green growth.

The most important measure for industry is the reform of the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), which aims to accelerate innovation to reduce emissions. In the reform, it is important that the EU maintains the well-functioning emission control system that we presently have, does not create overlapping regulation in climate action, creates strong incentives to reach energy efficiency and circular economy, and the permitting process is speeded up to encourage investment.

The Commission plans to make a proposal in 2022 to make EU air quality standards more in line with future WHO recommendations. In addition, the agenda includes the reduction of ammonium emissions in agriculture sector and reform of the Bathing Water Directive.

The Commission will also propose an ambitious review of the Waste Shipment Regulation to better monitor waste exports, ensure their sustainable treatment and restrict exports of harmful waste. The EU will also further partner with key countries to fight waste trafficking and facilitate intra- and inter-regional cooperation. This is welcomed as currently Member States are implementing the Waste Shipment Regulation very differently and it creates hindrances to transporting waste – secondary raw material – across the borders in Europe. Significant amount of electrical and electronic waste is also still sent to third countries outside of the EU or is dumped and we lose a large amount of secondary raw material each year. Increasing surveillance is indeed necessary to ensure the waste is properly recycled.

Finally, the Commission intends to address air and noise pollution from transport by tightening further the emission standards for all petrol and diesel cars, vans, trucks, and buses (Euro7). In addition, the Action Plan focuses on quality of water and soil, soil restoration and pollution from production and consumption in the EU.