Remarks by Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius on the Zero Pollution Action Plan

Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


Good afternoon everyone,

And thank you Executive Vice-President for showing importance of this initiative in a bigger picture of the European Green Deal.

Last year the Commission adopted the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability. It was an early bird of our wider approach towards pollution issues.

Together with that strategy, today’s plan translates our zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment into a tangible set of actions for air, water and soil.

It is needed because the EU and its Member States must ensure certain level of life quality for citizens who are now suffering from air and noise pollution.

Premature deaths from air pollution or chronic sleep disturbance from noise pollution must gradually become a thing of the past.

Pollution is also one of the main causes of biodiversity loss and damaged ecosystems that are our key weapon against climate change.

So we have an obligation to reduce pollution to levels that are not harmful to people’s health and the environment and that remain within the limits the planet can cope with.

That is the reason why apart from goals noted by Executive Vice-President action plan also aims to reduce by 25 percent the EU ecosystems areas where air pollution threatens biodiversity.

Why we also want plastic litter at sea and residual municipal waste to be reduced by 50 percent and microplastics released into the environment by 30 percent.

I also want to stress that the economic case for acting on pollution is clear. For example, it is estimated that per year air pollution in the EU costs 5 to 10 times more than it would cost to improve air quality. We also have a thriving industry and innovation capacity for clean technologies and services, and this plan should also benefit them.

How will we make this happen?

Firstly, we come up with the zero pollution hierarchy. It’s a set of principles that we should first of all prevent pollution and where it is not yet possible, it should be minimised. Finally, when pollution occurred, it should be remediated – and the related damage compensated.

Secondly, we rely on our legislative framework. It must be better implemented and where necessary revised to address any gaps.

Thirdly, the plan foreseen 33 concrete initiatives and actions that mainstream pollution prevention in all the relevant EU policies. Of course, due to the lack of time we have today it would be hard to explain every action one-by-one, but I will name at least few.

On air pollution we will propose that the EU’s air quality standards be aligned more closely with the upcoming WHO recommendations and that provisions on monitoring, modelling and air quality plans be strengthened to help local authorities.

Together with Member States, we will also follow up on National Air Pollution Control Programmes and reduction commitments to ensure that the National Emission Reduction Commitments Directive is fully implemented.

Through a number of European Green Deal measures and strategies we will introduce stricter requirements to tackle air pollution at source, such as from agriculture, industry, buildings and energy, and transport. For example, one of the ways to address air and noise pollution will be through the new Euro 7 standard for road vehicles.

Talking about water pollution we will strengthen implementation and modernise existing water-related laws. We will revise The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, modernise Marine Strategy Framework Directive and possibly identify new parameters in the Bathing Water Directive.

We will also work with Member States to promote sustainable and efficient water consumption, discourage water pollution and present a socially fair water bill to all water users and polluters – industry, agriculture and household consumers.

Finally, on soil pollution. Most of the measures will be covered in Soil Strategy which will be put forward later this year. Now I can tell you that our priority is to focus on identifying and remediating contaminated sites.

Definitely, this plan is only the beginning of a long process and it will take time and determination. But we are determined to deliver, and the wins will get bigger as we implement the plan.

Thank you, and now I open the floor to your questions.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

European Commission increases support for the EU’s beekeeping sector

More protection for our seas and oceans is needed, report finds

Which country offers the cheapest mobile data?

INTERVIEW: ‘Defend the people, not the States’, says outgoing UN human rights chief

10 ways central banks are experimenting with blockchain

Can the US-Iran rapprochement change the world?

DR Congo elections: ‘historic opportunity’ for ‘peaceful transfer of power’ says Security Council

What can be done to avoid the risk of being among the 7 million that will be killed by air pollution in 2020?

Is there a de facto impossibility for the Brexit to kick-start?

How trust and collaboration are key in India’s last mile response to the COVID-19 crisis

Investors must travel a winding road to net-zero. Here’s a map

Engaging women and girls in science ‘vital’ for Sustainable Development Goals

‘No steps taken’ so far to end Israel’s illegal settlement activity on Palestinian land – UN envoy

In visit to hurricane-ravaged Bahamas, UN chief calls for greater action to address climate change

Illegal fishing plagues the Pacific Ocean. Here’s how to end it

How AI and machine learning are helping to fight COVID-19

EU tells Britain stay in as long as you wish

Financing fossil fuels risks a repeat of the 2008 crash. Here’s why

Here are 4 tips for governing by design in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

How curiosity and globalization are driving a new approach to travel

Coronavirus (COVID-19): truth and myth on personal risk perception

The battle for the 2016 EU Budget to shake the Union; Commission and Parliament vs. Germany

Innovation can transform the way we solve the world’s water challenges

#WorldBicycleDay: 5 benefits of cycling

Missile strike kills at least 12 civilians, including children, in Syria’s Idlib: UN humanitarians

4 steps to developing responsible AI

Mental health and suicide prevention – What can be done to increase access to mental health services in my region?

UN chief outlines ‘intertwined challenges’ of climate change, ocean health facing Pacific nations on the ‘frontline’

New US President: MEPs hope for a new dawn in transatlantic ties

Desires for national independence in Europe bound by economic realities

European Union and African Union sign partnership to scale up preparedness for health emergencies

Yemen war: UN chief urges good faith as ‘milestone’ talks get underway in Sweden

Spring 2019 Standard Eurobarometer: Europeans upbeat about the state of the European Union – best results in 5 years

Coronavirus: Commission approves contract with CureVac to ensure access to a potential vaccine

Outbreak of COVID-19: The third wave and the people

A day in the life of a Venezuelan migrant in Boa Vista, Brazil

EU Copyright Directive: Google News threatens to leave Europe while media startups increasingly worry

3 ways to fight short-termism and relaunch Europe

Accountability in Sudan ‘crucial’ to avoid ‘further bloodshed’, says UN rights office

UN committed ‘to support the Libyan people’ as Guterres departs ‘with deep concern and a heavy heart’

Antarctica: the final coronavirus-free frontier. But will it stay that way?

Mario Draghi didn’t do it but Kim Jong-un did

UN chief welcomes G20 commitment to fight climate change

MEPs: Access to adequate housing should be a fundamental European right

More countries are making progress on corruption – but there’s much to be done, says a new report

Mountains matter, especially if you’re young, UN declares

EU food watchdog: more transparency, better risk prevention

Young activists share four ways to create a more inclusive world

The European Sting @ the European Business Summit 2014 – Where European Business and Politics shape the future

More than one million sexually transmitted infections occur every day: WHO

These countries spend the most on education

How a new approach to meat can help end hunger

MEPs cap prices of calls within EU and approve emergency alert system

Electronic cigarettes: is it really a safe alternative to smoking?

China confirms anti-state-subsidy investigation on EU wine imports

Century challenge: inclusion of immigrants in the health system

Here’s how we reboot digital trade for the 21st century

Britain and Germany change attitude towards the European Union

UN, global health agencies sound alarm on drug-resistant infections; new recommendations to reduce ‘staggering number’ of future deaths

Ten new migratory species protected under global wildlife agreement

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s