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Europe could soon have weaker pollution controls than the US. I’ll say that again. Europe could soon have weaker pollution controls than the US. In a surprising about turn, the European parliament voted this week to relax air quality controls.

The European Commission, the bureaucracy that comes up with the targets, was shocked. It has asked member states, who must ultimately agree them, to sharpen them again. If they refuse, the Commission could scrap its proposal altogether.

Parliamentarians, supposedly closest to the public which is getting ever greener, want to allow cities to exceed safe limits on 55 days a year instead of 33. The World Health Organisation recommends three. They are also setting the safe limit 50 per cent higher than the WHO recommends.

Air pollution is blamed for 350,000 deaths in the EU per annum and health costs of 9 per cent of GDP, according to Commission figures.

However, MEPs appear to have put a higher price on jobs. In Germany and the Netherlands, infrastructure projects have been abandoned and airport expansion is under threat.

The car industry in Europe, in particular, is having difficulty reducing emissions by as much as their Japanese competitors and have been feeling the pain. The Commission will next month be setting targets for carbon monoxide from exhaust fumes and has pledged to be tough. But will the parliament cloud them again?

Andrew Bounds

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