Tag Archive: Air Quality

  1. EU’s greenhouse gas emissions dropped last year, but accelerated efforts still needed to meet ambitious 2030 targets

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    Source: European Environment Agency

    Greenhouse gas emissions dropped by two percent last year across the European Union, compared to 2021 levels according to estimates in the latest European Environment Agency (EEA) ‘Trends and Projections’ report. However, despite gains made in emissions reductions, renewable energy and energy efficiency, the report cautions that accelerated action is urgently needed to meet the EU’s ambitious climate and energy targets.

    Now that the bulk of EU climate and energy legislation under the ‘Fit for 55 package’ is in place, the EU and its Member States are working to deliver on the targets, according to Trends and projections in Europe 2023 report which details progress made.

    As greenhouse gas emissions returned to a downward trajectory following the 2021 rebound from the Covid-19 pandemic, Member States also reported a higher level of ambition for 2030 reductions and thousands of national policies and measures to deliver on climate and energy objectives. While the report highlights some encouraging signs of progress, it also emphasises that efforts will need to at least double to reach the ambitious targets set for the end of this decade.

    Climate and energy progress to 2030

    The EU has reduced net greenhouse gas emissions including international aviation, by 31% compared to 1990 levels, while simultaneously fostering economic growth. Against the backdrop of soaring natural gas prices, 2022 witnessed a 2% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, driven by substantial decreases in the buildings and industrial sectors, while emissions from energy supply and transport saw an increase.

    To achieve the 2030 emission reduction target, the pace of annual greenhouse gas emission reductions in Europe must more than double compared with the annual progress seen since 2005, the EEA report says. More rapid reductions are particularly needed for the emissions from road transport, buildings, agriculture, waste and small industries, all of which are covered under the Effort Sharing Regulation. Reductions in energy consumption and growth of renewable energy must accelerate even faster to reach the 2030 targets as included in the recently adopted Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Directives.

    At the same time, the report indicates noticeable progress in specific areas. While wind and solar held a modest presence in the 2005 electricity sector, their estimated share in electricity production has surpassed 20% in 2022. The recent roll-out of solar deployment was particularly remarkable as it grew by 28% over the course of 2022. The report also notes a remarkable surge in the sales of heat pumps during 2022 and the increasing share of electric vehicles, accounting for a 22% share in the total new car sales last year.

    In March 2023, Member States reported more than 3000 policies and measures to achieve the energy and climate objectives. They project that measures already in place across Europe would lead to a reduction of 43% in 2030 for total net greenhouse gas emissions including international aviation, while further measures that are currently being planned would boost reductions to 48%. Last year, Member States only projected this reduction to total 41%, indicating a joint increase in ambition across Europe in the past year. However, this will still leave a seven percentage point gap to the 55% EU climate 2030 target.

    Beyond 2030

    Looking beyond 2030, the gap between the projected effect of policies and measures and the targets is wider, the EEA report says. It cautions that the window of opportunity to put in place the right decisions and technologies is limited, making it imperative that climate neutrality is taken into account in policies that address many sectors. In particular, the report highlights that there is an urgent need to speed up efforts in transportation and agriculture towards 2050, which have so far lagged other sectors in reducing emissions and mentions the crucial contribution of increasing the CO2-removal capacity within Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry sector.

    The update of Member States’ National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs), with drafts being submitted since the summer of 2023, and final updated NECPs to be expected by 30 June 2024, provides an opportunity for Member States to establish stronger policies and measures and enhance ambition levels. The report says that the update of these plans, together with the rapid implementation of measures adopted at EU level,are key ingredients to deliver on the targets.

    EEA support to EU Climate Law progress reporting

    The EEA is at the same time launching its Status of reported national adaptation actions in 2023 briefing which presents the current state of play of national adaptation policies. Both are being released at the same time under the EU’s Climate Law Progress Assessment which looks at both mitigation and adaptation efforts across EU Member States.

  2. Air pollution exceeds WHO limits across EU and UK capital cities

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    Source: Euractiv, V. Romano

    Although NO2 emissions are on the decline, the CREA reports levels above guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation.

    Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) is commonly released from combustion engine vehicles, amongst other sources. When inhaled, the gas can have harmful impacts on the individual – new research has shown concentrations of NO2 to be exceeding WHO limits in all EU27 and UK capital cities.

    In 2020, the road transportation sector was the main source of NO2 emissions, contributing approximately 37%. In urban areas, theses emissions have the largest impact, with additional traffic and dense populations multiplying human exposure to pollutants.

    Erika Uusivuori, Europe Analyst at The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) and co-author of the briefing shared, “This week, the European Parliament has approved the 2035 ban on sales of new fossil fuel cars. However, NO2 concentration levels and the resulting health impacts in European cities remain too high,”

    Lawmakers need to find more solutions to reduce transport-related emissions, and other highly emitting sources, such as power generation, need to be addressed immediately, too,” she added.

    The capital cities with the lowest levels of NO2 pollution were Tallinn (Estonia) and Stockholm (Sweden), while Athens (Greece) and Bucharest (Romania) were the worst emitters.

  3. Health-damaging polluted air – EU citizens could sue their governments

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    Source: euractiv, Georgi Gotev

    A top court advisor shared that citizens in European Union countries may be able to sue their governments for compensation if their health is damaged by illegal levels of air pollution

    The European Environmental Agency estimates air pollution to be responsible for roughly 300,000 premature deaths a year in Europe. Following 10 EU countries being found guilty of illegal air pollution by the Luxembourg Court of Justice of the EU in the last 10 years, an advisor to the court has stated that citizens may be able to sue their home countries.

    An infringement of the limit values for the protection of air quality under EU law may give rise to entitlement to compensation from the State,” the court said in a statement.

    An individual must be able to prove that the damage to their health was caused directly by air pollution. “This legal confirmation that there are routes to hold those in power to account is a major breakthrough in the fight for clean and healthy air,” said Irmina Kotiuk, lawyer at environmental law firm ClientEarth.

  4. EEA reports improving air quality in Europe

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    Better air quality has led to a significant reduction of premature deaths over the past decade in Europe. However, the European Environment Agency’s (EEA) latest official data show that almost all Europeans still suffer from air pollution, leading to about 400,000 premature deaths across the continent.

    Source: The EEA – The EEA’s ‘Air quality in Europe — 2020 report’ shows that six Member States exceeded the European Union’s limit value for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in 2018: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Italy, Poland, and Romania. Only four countries in Europe — Estonia, Finland, Iceland and Ireland — had fine particulate matter concentrations that were below the World Health Organization’s (WHO) stricter guideline values. The EEA report notes that there remains a gap between EU’s legal air quality limits and WHO guidelines, an issue that the European Commission seeks to address with a revision of the EU standards under the Zero Pollution Action Plan.

    The new EEA analysis is based on the latest official air quality data from more than 4 000 monitoring stations across Europe in 2018.

    Exposure to fine particulate matter caused about 417,000 premature deaths in 41 European countries in 2018, according to the EEA assessment. About 379,000 of those deaths occurred in EU-28 where 54,000 and 19,000 premature deaths were attributed to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ground-level ozone (O3), respectively. (The three figures are separate estimates and the numbers should not be added together to avoid double counting.)

    EU, national and local policies and emission cuts in key sectors have improved air quality across Europe, the EEA report shows. Since 2000, emissions of key air pollutants, including nitrogen oxides (NOx), from transport have declined significantly, despite growing mobility demand and associated increase in the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. Pollutant emissions from energy supply have also seen major reductions while progress in reducing emissions from buildings and agriculture has been slow.

    Thanks to better air quality, around 60,000 fewer people died prematurely due to fine particulate matter pollution in 2018, compared with 2009. For nitrogen dioxide, the reduction is even greater as premature deaths have declined by about 54 % over the last decade. The continuing implementation of environmental and climate policies across Europe is a key factor behind the improvements.

    “The EEA’s data prove that investing in better air quality is an investment for better health and productivity for all Europeans. Policies and actions that are consistent with Europe’s zero pollution ambition, lead to longer and healthier lives and more resilient societies,” said Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director.

    “It is good news that air quality is improving thanks to the environmental and climate policies that we have been implementing. But we can’t ignore the downside – the number of premature deaths in Europe due to air pollution is still far too high. With the European Green Deal we have set ourselves an ambition of reducing all kinds of pollution to zero. If we are to succeed and fully protect people’s health and the environment, we need to cut air pollution further and align our air quality standards more closely with the recommendations of the World Health Organization. We will look at this in our upcoming Action Plan,” said Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries.

    The European Commission has recently published a roadmap for the EU Action Plan Towards a Zero Pollution Ambition, which is part of the European Green Deal.

    Photo by Maria Bobrova on Unsplash.

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