Joint report on air quality 2019

Limit the levels of air pollutants

As air pollution is hazardous to both human health and the environment, we need to limit the

prevalence of air pollutants. The EU’s 2008 Ambient Air Quality Directive (AAQ Directive) sets air

quality standards throughout the EU for concentrations of those air pollutants that have the biggest

health impact. The European air quality standards were set almost twenty years ago. The WHO’s

recommended limits for particulates are based on health impacts and are roughly half the EU limits.

 

The AAQ Directive requires member states to:

• define air quality zones within their territory;

• carry out preliminary air quality assessments in each zone;

• set networks of fixed measuring stations in polluted areas (the Directive contains criteria both

for the location and for the minimum number of sampling points);

• collect data from their networks and report these to the European Commission and the

European Environmental Agency (EEA) each year;

• produce Air Quality Plans when concentrations exceed the standards;

• follow/define alert and information thresholds. The government must inform the public if

a threshold is exceeded.

The European Commission can take legal action if it considers that a member state has failed to

comply with the AAQ Directive.

 

The scope of the joint audit

Supreme audit institutions (SAIs) play an important role in contributing to efficient and costeffective

policy implementation by conducting independent audits of government activities.

This joint report is a comprehensive summary of 16 audits on air quality performed by the European

Court of Auditors and by 15 SAIs in Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Israel, Kosovo*,

Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, the Former Yugoslav Republic of

Macedonia and the Netherlands.

In order to collect and assess comparable information on national government actions, the 15 SAIs

prepared a common audit framework containing the main audit question, the audit topics and the

corresponding secondary questions to be addressed by the national audits. The main audit question

was: “What is known about the effectiveness and efficiency of measures taken by national and local

governments to improve air quality, and are these measures compliant with international and national

legislation?

The SAIs identified six major issues as being relevant to government action on improving air quality:

main problem, governance system, statutory rules and regulations, policy, funding and monitoring.

The aim of this joint audit has been to assess how air quality policies and actions are implemented in

the participating countries and to generate shared conclusions and recommendations. Additionally,

we hope that the joint audit will inspire SAIs by sharing good practices and passing on knowledge.

 

Findings

Eight SAIs were not able to audit the effectiveness and efficiency of the measures taken by their

respective governments. Among the reasons for this were that no policy had been adopted, no

performance indicators had been specified, and the monitoring information was inadequate. The

seven other SAIs indicated that the measures taken by their governments were at best only partially

effective.

The national governments in question have not given sufficient priority to the problem of air

pollution, with all the attendant consequences for human health. Despite the differences between

the countries, we conclude that (except for Estonia) the governments in the participating countries

have not taken sufficient action to improve air quality.

We based this main message on the following overall conclusions:

1) most participating countries do not comply with national and international standards and still

exceed limit or target values;

2) not all countries have adopted a national policy; not all have performance indicators;

3) there is a lack of coordination among actors and policies;

4) governments have limited information on budgets;

5) where there is a budget, this is not always sufficient;

6) monitoring systems do not always function properly;

7) there is scope for improving public information.

Based on our main message and conclusions, we make the following overall recommendations:

1) prepare and implement air quality plans;

2) measure the effectiveness of action taken;

3) improve coordination;

4) provide relevant data and perform a full cost-benefit analysis;

5) improve monitoring systems;

6) raise public awareness.

Please read the full report .