EU Directives set down air quality standards for Ireland and the other EU Member States for a wide variety of pollutants. Ireland has transposed all EU Directives relating to air quality. The Ambient Air Quality and Cleaner Air for Europe (CAFE) Directive (2008/50/EC) was published in May 2008, and was transposed into Irish legislation by the Air Quality Standards Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 180 of 2011), as amended. In addition, Directive 2004/107/EC (relating to arsenic, cadmium, mercury, nickel and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in ambient air) was transposed into Irish legislation by the Arsenic, Cadmium, Mercury, Nickel and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Ambient Air Regulations 2009 (S.I. No. 58 of 2009), as amended. The limit values set out in these pieces of legislation are available online at the following link:
The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) most recent annual Air Quality Report was published in November 2017 and provides an assessment of air quality in Ireland for 2016 and goes into detail about how the results compare to the European standards. Values for all network sites were below the EU annual limit value, but exceeded the stricter World Health Organisation guideline values for a number of pollutants at individual sites. The report can be found at the following link:
The 7th European Action Programme includes the objective of ensuring that outdoor air quality in the EU will have improved significantly by 2020, moving closer to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. This is an ambition which Ireland shares.
In parallel with the requirements of the CAFE Directive, Ireland is subject to, and compliant with, the National Emission Ceilings Directive (NEC) Directive 2001/81/EC, which was transposed into Irish law by S.I. No. 303/2012 - European Communities (National Emissions Ceiling) (Amendment) Regulations 2012. The NEC Directive sets upper limits, or “ceilings” for national emissions from each EU Member State. The pollutants covered include sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ammonia (NH3).
These targets are set out in the European Communities (National Emission Ceilings) Regulations 2004, which are available online at the following link:
A revised NEC Directive (Directive 216/2284) is due to be transposed later this year and sets stricter targets for 2020 and 2030, while also including fine particulate matter (PM2.5).
In support of these pieces of legislation which set air pollution standards, there are numerous Directives and Regulations, such as the Industrial Emissions Directive (Directive 2010/75/EU), the Medium Combustion Plants Directive (Directive EU/2015/2193), the Paints Directive (Directive 2004/42/CE) and the Non-Road Mobile Machinery Regulation (Regulation EU/2016/1628), which impose limits on emissions from various sources.
In recognition of the fact that air pollution has greater impact on health at lower levels than was previously understood, I am preparing to launch Ireland’s first ever National Clean Air Strategy, which will provide the strategic policy framework to identify and promote the required integrated measures across Government to reduce air pollution and promote cleaner air, while also delivering on wider social and economic objectives.
An important part of the strategy will be an expansion of the current air quality monitoring network. The new national Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme (AAMP) is being developed by the EPA under section 65 of the EPA Act, 1992 as amended. One of the key objectives of the programme is to enhance the provision of real time air quality data to the public. The AAMP will double the number of ambient air quality monitoring stations in Ireland by 2022, and enhance the provision of real time air quality data to the public. Further details on the timeframes for the expansion of the network will be released as they become available. I fully support this important initiative, and have committed funding of some €5 million over the lifetime of the programme.