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No. 117/10 | Berlin, 05.08.2010

New EU Directive on Ambient Air Quality transposed into German law

Particularly harmful fine particles addressed for the first time

More stringent air quality standards will apply in Germany as of tomorrow (6 August 2010). This is to transpose the new EU Directive on Ambient Air Quality into German law. For the first time, the Directive sets standards for fine particles (with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres; PM2.5), which are particularly dangerous to human health. A target value for PM2.5 will enter into force in 2010. An equivalent limit value for PM2.5 will apply from 2015. Air quality standards for particulate matter with a diameter of less than 10 micrometres (PM10), oxides of nitrogen, benzene, sulphur dioxide and other substances remain unchanged.

The EU Directive provides for the possibility of postponing deadlines. Almost all EU Member States, including Germany, have difficulties complying with the ambitious limit values for particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen which have been in force since 2005 and 2010, respectively. Especially in the transport sector, pollutant emissions have not decreased as expected, despite ever tighter emissions standards. A major prerequisite for the postponement of deadlines is the submission of an air quality plan in which measures are described to ensure compliance with air quality standards in future. If a postponement of a deadline is granted, limit values for particulate matter must be met by 12 June 2011, and those for oxides of nitrogen by 2015 at the latest.

With the 8th Act Amending the Federal Immission Control Act and the 39th Ordinance Implementing the Federal Immission Control Act (Ordinance on Air Quality Standards and Emission Ceilings - 39. BImSchV), Directive 2008/50/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe is being transposed on a one-to-one basis. The Länder are responsible for the enforcement of the new provisions. One important step towards meeting the limit values can be the designation of low-emission, or environmental, zones which vehicles with high emissions must not enter. More than 40 of these low-emission zones have already been established by the Länder.

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