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The Fifth Environmental Action Programme, adopted in 1993, identified noise as one of the most pressing environmental problems in urban areas and concluded that action needed to be taken with regard to various noise sources.
Within the EU, noise is regulated both by means of more general measures such as requirements for noise mapping and implementation of action programmes, and by specific technical standards. Within the first category falls Directive 2002/49/EC relating to the assessment and management of environmental noise, which aims to define a common approach, intended to avoid, prevent, or reduce on a prioritised basis the harmful effects due to exposure to environmental noise.  To that end a number of measures shall be implemented progressively, including noise mapping, by methods of assessment common to the Member States; the making of information on environmental noise and its effects available to the public; and the adoption of action plans with a view to preventing and reducing environmental noise where necessary and particularly where exposure levels can induce harmful effects on human health. ‘Environmental noise’ is defined as unwanted or harmful outdoor sound created by human activities, including noise emitted by means of transport, road traffic, rail traffic, air traffic, and from sites of industrial activity. (Arts 1 and 2.)
The Directive applies to environmental noise to which humans are exposed in particular in built-up areas, in public parks or other quiet areas in an agglomeration, in quiet areas in open country, near schools, hospitals, and other noise-sensitive buildings and areas. Certain kinds of noise, including noise from domestic activities and noise at workplaces, are not covered. (Art 2.)
Every five years strategic noise maps showing the situation in the preceding calendar year must be made for all agglomerations and for all major roads and major railways within each Member State. Action plans must be drawn up by the competent authorities to address priorities which may be identified by the exceeding of any relevant limit value or by other criteria chosen by the Member States, and communicated to the Commission, for the agglomerations and for the major roads as well as the major railways within their territories. The action plans shall meet minimum requirements set out in Annex V. (Arts 7—9.)
More specific in its application is Directive 2002/30/EC on the establishment of rules and procedures with regard to the introduction of noise-related operating restrictions at airports.41
Pertinent requirements on products are found primarily in two directives. One is Directive 70/157/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the permissible sound level and the exhaust system of motor vehicles, which lays down limits for the noise level of the mechanical parts and exhaust systems.2 The noise limits range from 74 dB(A) to 80 dB(A) depending on the type of vehicle. Member States may not, on grounds relating to the permissible sound level and the exhaust system, refuse or prohibit the sale, registration, entry into service, or use of any vehicle in which the sound level and the exhaust system satisfy the requirements set out in an Annex to the Directive. The same applies to refusal to grant EU or national-type approval in respect of a type of motor vehicle or type of exhaust system that meets the requirements of the Directive. With effect from 1 July 2027 the Directive will be repealed and replaced by Regulation (EU) No 540/2014 on the sound level of motor vehicles and of replacement silencing systems.43
Noise requirements for several other products can be found in Directive 2000/ 14/EC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the noise emission in the environment by equipment for use outdoors.44 It aims to harmonise noise emission standards, conformity assessment procedures, marking, technical documentation, and collection of data concerning noise emission in the environment of equipment for use outdoors in order to prevent obstacles to the free movement of such equipment. The Directive applies to equipment listed in some of the articles or defined in Annex I. The Member States may not prohibit, restrict, or impede the placing on the market or putting into service of equipment covered by the Directive which complies with its provisions, bears the CE marking, indicates the guaranteed sound power level, and is accompanied by an EC declaration of conformity.
L Kramer EU Environmental Law (7 th edn, Sweet & Maxwell, 2012) Chap 8 S Varvastian ‘Achieving the EU Air Policy Objectives in Due Time: A Reality or a Hoax?’ (2015) 24 European Energy and Environmental Law Review 2—11
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