Air pollution does not stop at borders. International cooperation on transboundary air pollution – and sharing of information and knowledge between countries and regions – is therefore important. Clean air is also closely linked to several of the Sustainable Development Goals, notably SDG3 on health which includes the following target:
By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination.
At international level, the EU cooperate with many strategic partners including
- the World Health Organization on the air quality guidelines
- the UN Environmental Programme on zero pollution / pollution free planet initiatives, and on the follow-up to UNEA resolution 3/8 from December 2017
- the Climate and Clean Air Coalition on synergies between the climate and clean air agendas
- and the Arctic Council and its Monitoring and Assessment Programme notably on black carbon emissions impacting the Arctic region
Air pollution is also addressed under the Neighbourhood Policy, for example in the Green Agenda for the Balkans.
The UNECE Air Convention
The most advanced multilateral clean air agreement is the UNECE Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (the Air Convention). The Air Convention was adopted in 1979. It provides a platform for clean air policy discussions and is supported by a well-established science network.
The Air Convention has been extended by eight Protocols. The European Union is party to seven of these Protocols. Of particular importance is the so called Gothenburg Protocol. It was agreed in November 1999 and amended in 2012. It sets emission reduction commitments for 2020 and beyond. These commitments have also been transposed into EU law by the Directive on National Emission Reduction Commitments. The amended Gothenburg Protocol was ratified by Council Decision (EU) 2017/1757 following the Commission’s Clean Air Policy Package.
The EU is active within the Air Convention and supports further ratification and implementation of the protocols by other Convention Parties. For example, the EU funds capacity-building in the Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia region, to support their route to ratification.