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Declaring clean air a basic human right, committee slams diesel as a ‘public health disaster’

Declaring clean air as “a basic human right”, PACE’s Social Affairs Committee has urged states to reverse policies which favour or tolerate diesel vehicles, declaring them “a disaster from a public health perspective”.

In a draft resolution based on a report by Serhii Kiral (Ukraine, EC), the committee pointed out that air pollution is still “causing disease and shortening lives” across Europe, and urged Council of Europe member States to make combating it a political priority.

The parliamentarians urged the consideration of special measures to limit the circulation of diesel vehicles and said it should be mandatory for owners to retrofit them with exhaust filters. They also called on the European Union to align its benchmarks on air pollutants with the World Health Organisation’s tighter air quality guidelines.

The committee also called for:

  • clean air zones around schools
  • boosting investment in clean technologies in industry, agriculture and in households
  • better air quality monitoring and providing real-time information to the public

The committee cited figures from the WHO and EU showing that air pollution was responsible for at least 753,000 deaths per year in the Council of Europe area, though the latest research shows that the figure could be much higher.

The report is due to debated in May at the Assembly’s Standing Committee.