United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

European Commission

Commission on sustainable development
Fourteenth Session, New York, 01 ? 12 May 2006
Main session on Air Pollution/Atmosphere 10 AM to 1 PM, 4 May 2006
André Zuber, European Commission, Environment Directorate-General
First, the European Commission support the statement made by Austria speaking on behalf
of the EU.
Indeed, air pollution is not only a problem for developing countries. Also in developed
countries air pollution is a major public health issue: The European Commission has
estimated that about 370.000 people die prematurely every year in the EU due to air pollution
and mainly due to the pollution by airborne particulate matter.
The European Commission also think that the integrated approach is key to achieve
progress, particularly considering the themes in the CSD 14 cycle but also taking into
account other important sectors such as trade agriculture and land use/planning. The
integrated approach is also important in finding multi-benefit measures in progressing
towards our objectives.
In answer to the question raised by the chair of constraint and barriers to progress to achieve
our (MDG) objectives the experience in the EU:
· One major obstacle is the cost of taking action, the cost often incurred by industry or
commercial activities, and hence potentially influencing the jobs and competitiveness.
On the other hand we have costs incurred in society: the price of poor air quality has
to be paid by our citizens through poor health and premature deaths.
· Another obstacle is how rapid we which to achieve the objectives, we are to a large
extent ?stuck? with old infrastructure which require a long time before it is replaced. In
the transport sector the fleet of vehicles is replaced by new and better vehicles only at
a slow rate.
· For some activities like industry or commercial activities there is generally speaking a
number of effective policy instruments such as laws and regulations. It is much harder
to find effective and acceptable instruments to address the general public or personal
choices, examples would be found in the personal choices in the transport sector and
in the choice of domestic heating.
· Further, there are obstacles due to lack of knowledge about the problem and the
effective policies, and in some cases in administrative and financial capacity. Such
obstacles are likely to be much greater in developing countries.
The chairman of the session also asked about social development issues. In the EU we
have noted that people having he lowest income have the lowest level of education and
training and these people also have the poorest housing and are exposed to the highest
levels of air pollution.
The social issue is likely to be much greater in developing countries, both in rural areas
and also in the fast growing mega-cities, where the poorest would be subject to the
poorest air quality.
Finally, we view that we are dealing with urgent public health issues and where the CSD
would add value to other ongoing action within the UN and in other places. Some items
have already been mentioned in this session such as air emissions from international
shipping and avitation. We support those suggestions.
Also the European Commission side event during the lunch break was announced.