At the UN COP25 Climate Change conference, held in Madrid just before Christmas, IMPEL was very well represented by our Board member Horst Buether, who is also a specialist member of the LIFE-ENPE Air Pollution Working Group. He and Antonio Vercher, Board member of ENPE, delivered presentations during the session focusing on urban pollution, including atmospheric pollution. This was an excellent example of IMPEL and ENPE collaboratively working at such a high profile international event.
*) IMPEL Board member Horst Buether sitting most left
In summary, Horst talked about the following.
Cutting air pollution in Europe would prevent early death, improve productivity and curb climate change. Road transport, power plants, industry, agriculture and households are the main sources of air pollutants. These sources are closely linked to Europe’s core system of production and consumption, and are also key drivers of greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss. (see also https://www.eea.europa.eu/highlights/cutting-air-pollution-in-europe)
In the last 50 years urban air pollution has steeply declined. In the 1960th air pollution with sulphur dioxide (SO2) was above 200 µg/m³ (daily mean) and up to 4 g of dust sedimentation per m² and day (>300 kt per year). This resulted in a high mortality with significant increases during smog episodes. Because of political decisions and the introduction of filter technology the concentrations of SO2 and fine particles (PM10) are now below the limit values in wide parts of Europe. In contrast concentrations of ultra-fine particles (PM2.5) are still above the recommendation of the WHO (10 µg/m3) in urban areas and cause health problems.
The concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) have only moderately declined in the last decades. In many city centers the concentrations are still above the European limit value of 40 µg/m3. Industry in the surroundings and more fare away is only the second biggest polluter in city centers. The main source of NO2 in the areas with violation of the limit value is urban traffic and here especially Diesel engines. The real drive emissions of Diesel passenger cars are much higher than the NO2 emission limit values given by the European Commission. Only from EU 6d on the real emissions of Diesel cars are below the limit values. This gives hope for the future but at the moment additional measures to reduce NO2 pollution in city centers are still necessary. Even after the challenge of air pollution in big cities will be solved the problem of too high carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions still remains and needs further efforts in the areas of energy production and traffic management.