Air quality improves “remarkably” in Europe and pollution-related deaths drop

Europe is on the right track when it comes to reducing pollution. That may be broadly the main conclusion of the report published this Monday by the European Environment Agency, which includes that since 2000, emissions of key atmospheric pollutants, including nitrogen oxides (NOx) from the transport, have decreased significantly, despite growing demand for mobility and the consequent increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the sector.

As noted in the report, significant reductions have also been observed in polluting emissions from the energy supplywhile progress in reducing emissions from buildings and agriculture has been slow.

All in all, exposure to fine particles caused around 417,000 premature deaths in 41 European countries in 2018, as assessed by the EEA. Around 379,000 of those deaths occurred in the European Union, while 54,000 and 19,000 premature deaths were attributed to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ground-level ozone (O3), respectively.

Yes, in 2018 there were about 60,000 fewer premature deaths from fine particle pollution compared to 2009. In the case of nitrogen dioxide, the reduction is even greater, given that premature deaths have decreased by approximately 54% in the last decade. The continuous implementation of environmental and climate policies across Europe is a determining factor for such improvements.

The report, on the other hand, does not delve into the effects of Covid-19 on environmental matters, because it considers that it is too early to draw conclusions. It does publish a brief review in which it calculates reductions up to 60% of certain air pollutants in many European countries that applied containment measures in the spring of this year because of the pandemic.

“It is good news that air quality is improving thanks to the environmental and climate policies that we have applied. But we cannot ignore the negative part: the number of premature deaths in Europe due to air pollution is still too high“commented the European Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevičius. He also put the focus on the European Green Deal.” We have set ourselves the ambition to reduce all types of pollution to zero, “he added. To be successful and fully protect the health of people and the environment, “we must further reduce air pollution and bring our air quality standards closer to the World Health Organization guiding values.” And now look to the future. “We will address this in our next action plan, “he concluded.

The report indicates that six Member States exceeded the European Union limit value for fine particles in 2018: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Italy, Poland and Romania. Only four countries in Europe – Estonia, Finland, Ireland and Iceland – reported concentrations of fine particles below the strictest WHO guideline values. It therefore notes that there are still divergences between the EU’s legal air quality limits and the WHO guiding values, an issue that the European Commission intends to address with a review of EU standards within the framework of the plan. action “zero pollution”.

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