Tuesday, 26 February 2019
Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment
472. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if Ireland is in breach of the EU emissions ceilings directive on emissions of NOx and the related World Health Organization, WHO, limits for clean air; and if so, his plans and timescale to address same. [9118/19]
Nitrogen oxides (NOx) refers to two pollutants: nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). As outlined in the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) report "Ireland’s Transboundary Gas Emissions 1990 - 2016", published in March of last year, Ireland exceeded the NOx limits set out in Directive 2001/81/EC for all years from 2010 to 2016. The Directive allows, however, an adjustment to emissions to reflect ongoing improvements to estimation methodologies updated in accordance with scientific knowledge. Ireland, with the approval of the European Commission, has applied this adjustment and so is considered to be in legal compliance for all years since 2011.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) standards relate to ambient air quality, rather than to overall emissions. The EPA's annual Air Quality in Ireland Report for 2017 (the latest year for which figures are available) indicates that NO2 was monitored at 14 sites in 2017. The NO2 concentrations at all monitoring sites were below the European Union (EU) annual limit value and WHO annual air quality guideline value. There were also no exceedances of the EU NO2 hourly limit value. There was one hourly average above the hourly WHO air quality guideline in 2017 (at the monitoring station in Blanchardstown, Dublin).
Notwithstanding compliance with EU standards, I am concerned at recent scientific evidence which indicates that air pollution is more damaging at lower concentrations than was previously understood. With that in mind, I am committed to bringing forward Ireland's first national Clean Air Strategy. The Strategy, which I intend to publish this year, will include a range of specific actions to reduce the health impacts of air pollution, as well as providing the policy framework necessary to identify and promote further integrated measures across Government that are required to reduce air pollution and promote cleaner air and better health, while delivering on wider national objectives including supporting the transition to a low carbon society.