1. Introduction

The Framework Directive on ambient air quality assessment and management (96/62/EC)1 was adopted by the European Council in September 1996. The four objectives of the Framework Directive (FWD) are to:

  • define and establish objectives for ambient air pollution in the Community designed to avoid, prevent and reduce harmful effects on human health and the environment as a whole;
  • assess ambient air quality in Member States on the basis of common methods and criteria;
  • obtain adequate information on ambient air quality and ensure that it is made available to the public inter alia by means of alert thresholds;
  • maintain ambient air quality where it is good and improve it in other cases.

The FWD obliges the European Commission to present proposals to Council for further legislation which will fill in the basic structure which the FWD establishes. The first such proposals (on sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and lead) were adopted by the Commission for presentation to Council on 8 October 1997. Other proposals are now in preparation.

The Commission is being assisted in the technical work leading to proposals by a number of small Working Groups on individual pollutants. These Working Groups are generally chaired by experts from Member States, with further experts from up to 5 Member States, plus others from the World Health Organization, industry and NGOs. They report to a Steering Group including all Member States, industry, NGOs and others.

During the Steering Group Meeting of 8-9 February 1996 it was agreed that technical guidance should be developed to assist the competent authorities in implementing the FWD and subsequent daughter legislation. This document is the first step in the development of such guidance.

Good air quality assessment is key to implementation of the FWD and daughter legislation. Articles 5 and 6 set out basic assessment requirements.

Article 6 deals with ongoing assessment requirements under the Directive once limit values have been set in daughter legislation. Member States must divide their territory into zones (an agglomeration is a special type of zone). Ongoing assessment requirements are related to the levels of pollution within the zones.

Article 5 deals with initial identification of the levels of pollution within a zone so that Member States can determine what the ongoing requirements are likely to be. It states that:

    Member States which do not have representative measurements of the levels of pollutants for all zones and agglomerations shall undertake series of representative measurements, surveys or assessments in order to have the data available in time for implementation of the legislation referred to in Article 4(1). 2

      This means that Member States should have sufficient information by the time that legislation setting limit values is implemented with which to identify those agglomerations and other zones on which most attention should be concentrated.

      The document deals with the question of how to decide whether information which is already available provides a sufficient basis for making these decisions, and, if not, how best to acquire such information.

      It does not deal directly with assessment techniques to support optimisation of permanent monitoring networks, although information acquired during preliminary assessment should be useful for this purpose. Nor does it deal with issues of ongoing assessment under Article 6 of the Directive. It is expected that further guidance will be developed on these topics and on other aspects of implementing the legislation.

      In chapter 2 of this report, a general outline of the assessment procedure under article 5 and its documentation, reporting and updating is provided. In chapters 3, 4 and 5, methodology and information are provided on preliminary measurements, on the assessment of human activities and emissions, and on modelling of concentration levels. In these chapters, emphasis will be on four pollutants (SO2, NO2, particulate matter (PM10), and lead) for which a Daughter Directive is being developed first. However, the methodology is intended to be useful also for other pollutants, to be included in forthcoming Daughter Directives. In these chapters, no specific methods are prescribed; rather, alternative methods and tools are given and recommendations are provided, and it is expected that Member States will exchange expertise and experience in this area, on the basis of which this document may be updated regularly. In chapter 6, the recommended specification for the assessments is provided. In chapter 7, the procedure for reporting, documenting and updating the assessments is described in more detail.

      1 OJ.L296, 21.11.96, p55

      2 i.e. legislation setting limit values.




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