The EU Clean Air policy framework constitutes the foundation of national, regional and local policies on safeguarding air quality to ensure that effective and efficient action is taken across all member
states. Article 23 of Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe prescribes that, when levels of pollutants exceed the limit or target values provided in given zones or agglomerations, member states are required to ensure that Air Quality Plans (AQPs) are established for those areas. The Directive also states that AQPs should cover all pollutants in breach of the limits via a single, integrated Air Quality Plan in order to achieve compliance of limit and target values while keeping the period of exceedances ‘as short as possible’ for the protection of human health. Not least, the increasing importance of air quality has also been emphasised in the recent Communication of the European Commission titled “A Europe that protects: Clean air for all” (Brussels, 17.5.2018 COM(2018) 330 final).
Depending on the internal organisation of single member states, regions or local authorities are responsible of the development, implementation and reporting of AQPs. Given the localised nature of the drivers and consequences of air pollution on citizens’ health, municipal and local authorities are often best placed to implement effective measures to improve air quality, due to their knowledge of the territory, actors and policy levers (e.g. urban planning, infrastructure/traffic management, housing permits, parking policy, etc.). In any case, multi-level governance cooperation is required to fully implement the Directive 2008/50/EC. Improving air quality and curbing air pollution requires the deployment of significant resources, not least financial. EU and national funds are available to prepare and implement national, regional and local policies to tackle air pollution. However, at present, programmes are rarely dedicated to improvements in
air quality by financially supporting measures that tackle the issue directly. Improvements in air quality are often regarded as additional outcomes of measures originally aimed at other specific objectives (e.g.
improvement of public transport, energy efficiency, etc.). They are rarely considered as the sole purpose of any programme or intervention, with a few exceptions.
Air quality is one of the twelve priority themes of the “Urban Agenda for the EU” and the related Urban Action Partnership for Air Quality is dedicated to implement solutions to ensure a good air quality for human health
(Pact of Amsterdam, May 2016). In order to do so, regulatory and technical actions have to be undertaken to curb air pollution by intervening on its main sources (e.g. transport, energy, agricultural sector). The Partnership for Air Quality identified the actions needed to tackle the financial issue, building upon Action no. 3 – Better Targeted Funding for Air Quality of the Urban Agenda for the EU, which stresses the need to increase financial solutions for urban air quality actions, in particular in the framework of Air Quality Plans. Specifically:
–– An assessment of funding needs and development of appropriate business models to fund air quality measures
–– The development of recommendations for improving the targeting of existing funding instruments on air quality and promoting better accessibility to funds.
The present guidance is intended as a supporting tool for the main actors at EU, national, regional, metropolitan and urban level to identify, integrate and improve traditional and innovative financing schemes dedicated to the implementation of air quality measures. In doing so, the guidance seeks to highlight opportunities to leverage the involvement of both private and public financial resources.