Spreekpunten staatssecretaris Van Veldhoven bij Clean Air Dialoque, 18 februari

Toespraak van staatssecretaris Van Veldhoven tijdens de Clean Air Dialoque op donderdag 18 februari 2021. De tekst is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

First of all I want to thank you all for joining this Clean Air Dialoque. Especially welcome to  EU Commissionar Sinkevicius. Many thanks for organizing this Dialoque together. 

It’s nice to have such a wide range of participants at this Dialogue, from businesses to local governments, civilians, AND the younger people. We talked this morning with this special group and it’s good to hear their concerns and ideas. Clean air concerns us all!

Why this Dialoque?

Clean air is of vital importance for our people: that’s the vision we share. It affects our everyday lives, our health, especially for the most vulnerable ones, like older people and little children, and our economies.

Thanks to our policies the air quality has been improved the last decades. But still, the amount of premature deaths is too high, in our country alone we’re talking about 11.000 people die every year due to exposure to air pollution. This means air pollution was almost as deadly as Covid-19 was last year.

And there is every reason to act accordingly.  After smoking (13%) air pollution is 1 of the most important risk factors, in the same order of magnitude as obesity (5%). So there is still much to be gained in health in the coming years and decades. 

That’s why we’ve been working in the Netherlands on a new approach, with a special role for our provinces and local governments. Let me give 2 examples:

  1. Clean air Agreement. Around 80 different municipalities and provinces have joined the Clean Air Agreement, we signed last year (January 2020). They agreed upon a set of measures to reduce emissions and committed to a health centered approach.  The goal is to reduce negative health effects by half in 2030, for the effects coming from domestic sources. Together we’re working toward meeting the WHO guideline values for particular matter and nitrogen oxides in 2030. Still more municipalities are joining the Clean Air Agreement, making it a widespread movement across the country. 
  2. Zero Emission Zones City Logistics. We agreed that from 2025 30 to 40 of our largest cities will introduce zero-emission zones for city logistics.Last week I signed the agreement with the first 20 cities and stakeholders from the transport sector, business associations. Before this summer this will be 30 cities and before the end of this year our ambition is to have an agreement with 40 cities.  They will set up areas where only delivery vans and lorries will be able to drive emission-free. This benefits both climate and our lungs. We agreed on the conditions.

By making national agreements now, there is clarity and time for entrepreneurs and municipalities to prepare.

Appeal Europese policy

I realize these national actions alone are not sufficient. Air pollution doesn’t care about borders. We’re exporting pollution to our neighboring countries, but we’re also importing nearly half of our air pollution from abroad. We can’t control this with national policy alone. We therefore rely on EU regulations. 

I am therefore pleased by the EU ambitions of the Zero Pollution action Plan. Strict European policy can help reduce emissions, while ensuring a level playing field. This morning we talked about different topics like agriculture, wood combustion, transport and industry. Action in all of these sectors is needed to improve air quality.

I want to plead for a more powerful EU source policy, it really can help us. Like emission requirements for mopeds, mobile machinery, and potential restrictions on the import of diesel vehicles.

That is the appeal I want to make today. Let’s work together to make the air cleaner and the people healthier. Thát’s not only a national but certainly an international matter.