Parliamentary report proposes to give a “second wind” to the fight against air pollution

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Four months after the Court of Auditors, a parliamentary report presented on 19 May proposes a major review of the fight against air pollution, both in terms of governance and sectoral measures. While the two rapporteurs, MEPs Jean-Louis Roumégas and LR Martial Saddier, agree on about 20 joint proposals, they have, on the other hand, divergent positions on the evolution of environmental taxation.

“The time has come to revive (the policy) in favor of air quality”, underlines a report presented on 19 May on behalf of the committee for evaluation and control of public policies by MEPs Ecologist Jean-Louis Roumégas and LR Martial Saddier. This document, which is more than 200 pages long, is the result of work carried out in the continuation of the Court of Auditors’ investigation into air pollution control policies (see our article of 22 January 2016). MEPs conducted over 100 hearings of officials and experts and chose to broaden reflection on indoor air pollution. “In terms of health, the effects of the two pollutions – external and internal air – are combined. The challenge must be to guarantee a healthy air for all, “stressed Jean-Louis Roumégas in presenting the report.
“Actions against air pollution are perfectible: they must be structured more, at the national and local levels, warn the two deputies. Not only because Europe is asking for it – 19 of the 25 areas with threshold exceedances for nitrogen dioxide are affected by a formal notice from the European Commission – and above all because the protection of human health and economic rationality impose it on us. ” Air quality is also today the first environmental concern of the French, have not failed to remind the two elected officials who insisted on the need to give a “second wind” to public policies in this matter.

Better assessment of pollution

A first series of measures aims to better understand and assess air pollution and its economic and social costs. MEPs therefore propose the establishment of a synthetic air quality index that is common to all approved air quality monitoring associations (AASQUA) and that the general public is made available, an individualized index of exposure to air quality (eg through an application on mobile phones). Always with a view to improving knowledge on the subject,

Better governance

Another need for rapporteurs is to clarify and simplify policy governance. “The national plans were adopted according to a timetable that was hampered”, partly dictated by the threat of a complaint from Brussels, and “these plans have never been evaluated”, notes the report. At the beginning of the year, the Court of Auditors’ report already regretted the lack of coherence in public action. Local planning is also judged by both MEPs as “abundant and unfinished”: air quality planning instruments are numerous – atmospheric protection plans (PPAs), territorial air-energy climate plans (PCAETs ), Regional Climate Air Energy (SRCAE), regional planning and spatial development schemes (SRADDT) – but the integration of these tools with sectoral planning (local town planning plans, territorial coherence schemes, urban assured “, they said. In addition, they say, the most effective tools, the Atmosphere Protection Plans (PPAs), 35 in number, are “insufficiently deployed on the territory” – they cover 46% of the population, said Martial Saddier. In some cases, measures taken at the local level by prefects or local authorities are disrupted by interventions at the national level, noted the rapporteurs. Moreover, they insist, “the management of pollution peaks is inadequate” and presents “three major flaws”. First of all, “It does not allow sufficient time for emergency measures to be put in place, the new decree of 7 April 2016 on the initiation of prefectoral proceedings which only earn one day”. Secondly, the path of the procedure – from information to restriction, with two triggering thresholds – and its link with pollution levels and health issues are incomprehensible “. Finally, “its most emblematic measure – the alternating traffic – does not mean anything because the prohibition to circulate according to the number plates is random and does not allow to target the most polluting vehicles”. “We are focusing on the peaks, but nowadays everyone agrees that it is necessary above all to act on the background pollution,” points Martial Saddier.

Simplification of pollution peak management

At the national level, MEPs call for “coherence between policies to combat climate change and air pollution”. They also call for “further decentralizing the conduct of public policies to combat air pollution” by entrusting the development of PPPs to regions or public institutions for inter-municipal cooperation (EPCI). They also propose to better evaluate the results of the fight against air pollution by carrying out, in particular, a national spatialized inventory (INS) of pollutants at the kilometer scale, updated each year, and associating the AASQAs and the research organizations to evaluate PPPs in the most polluted areas. To simplify and speed up the process of managing pollution peaks, they advocate three measures: allow the triggering of mandatory measures on the basis of forecasts made by AASQA; replace the two triggering thresholds with an “atmospheric vigilance” device, which evolves according to the intensity of the pollution measured by four colors (green, yellow, orange, red) on the model of Météo France’s vigilance and substitute alternating traffic a graduated or shared traffic, reserved for the least polluting vehicles or car-pooling for commuting. They also propose to simplify the governance of the Ile-de-France sprawl of excessively complex pollution. Today, the police prefect, the prefect of the region, the region and the city of Paris intervene. For the rapporteurs,

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