New research commissioned by the Clean Cities Campaign and Transport & Environment shows a significant cut in air pollution after introducing low and zero-emission zones to our cities.
Of particular excitement, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines for nitrogen dioxide pollution are within reach even in the most polluted and traffic-heavy hotspots in our cities, provided that zero-emissions zones are implemented by 2030. Additional air quality improvements can be made via other policies and sources.
The commissioned research should help keep the EU’s Ambient Air Quality Directive updated and encourage the EU to adhere to guidelines and legal restrictions, and also accelerate their zero-emissions transport plans in Europe.
The research was significant and the main findings to pass on included the following:
• More stringent low-emission zones can curb NO2 pollution from local roads by between 36% (Milan) to 45% (Madrid) at traffic hotspots by 2027. This brings total concentrations (roadside plus other sources) at most city hotpots down to as low as 25.8 µg/m³, much closer to the 20 µg/m³ target that the European Commission proposed only for 2030.
• In 2030, zero-emission zones can almost eliminate NO2 emissions from local roads, leaving only the contribution from other sources. Reductions range from 91% (Milan) to 95% (Paris, Brussels). Total NO2 levels of 13.6 µg/m3 (Brussels) to 23 µg/m3 (Milan and Warsaw) can be achieved.
• The modelling contains several worst-case assumptions, and in particular does not allow for any significant ambition in targeting the remaining non-transport emissions. This means that the future-year predictions are likely to be conservative and that lower concentrations than predicted here are highly achievable with additional and combined efforts to tackle other pollution sources.