Emission cuts under the new Gothenburg Protocol are expected to reduce health damage in Europe from PM2.5 and ozone by 27 and 11 per cent, respectively, between 2000 and 2020.
Commitments under the revised Gothenburg Protocol will lead to significant reductions in the negative impacts of air pollution in Europe, according to a new analysis by IIASA. By 2020, mortality from exposure to PM2.5 and ground-level ozone will fall by 27 and 11 per cent respectively. Forest and freshwater ecosystem areas exposed to acid deposition above the critical loads will shrink by more than 55 per cent. Less improvement is however expected for eutrophication, where the ecosystem areas with nitrogen depositions in excess of the critical loads will decline only by about 20 per cent.
Using the GAINS (Greenhouse gas – Air pollution Information and Simulation) computer model, the environmental improvements calculated to result from the emission reduction commitments of the revised Gothenburg Protocol have been compared to those previously estimated for the current legislation (CLE) baseline scenario and the maximum technically feasible reductions (MTFR) scenario.
As the revised protocol contains provisions for possible adjustments of base year emission inventories and/or emission reduction commitments, there is some uncertainty about the expected levels of emissions in 2020.
For Europe as a whole, IIASA has estimated that the emission reduction commitments between 2005 and 2020 under the revised protocol imply a decrease in emissions of SO2, NOx, VOCs and PM2.5 of 41, 31, 33 and 22 per cent, respectively, while emissions of NH3 are expected to remain at the 2005 level (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Changes in European emissions in 2020 relative to 2005. The commitments of the revised Gothenburg Protocol are indicated by the bars, while the lines indicate the ranges between the ‘current legislation’ and the ‘maximum technically feasible reduction’ cases estimated by the GAINS model.
These numbers are clearly less ambitious than the ranges presented in 2011 to negotiators in the cost-effectiveness analysis (see AN 3/11). In fact, the agreed commitments are even less ambitious than those estimated to result in 2020 solely from implementing already existing emission control legislation.
It is pointed out that several factors may contribute to explain these differences, including differing views about the underlying projections for energy use and economic development, different assumptions about the effectiveness of emission control legislation, and uncertainties in emission inventories. Moreover, countries may also have introduced a “margin of safety” to safeguard against unexpected developments.
To facilitate comparisons with the original Gothenburg Protocol and the targets established in the EU’s Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution (TSAP) from 2005, changes in impact indicators were calculated using year 2000 as the reference year (in contrast to the emission reduction commitments in the revised protocol, which use 2005 as the base year).
It is estimated that the new agreed emission cuts will lead to significant reductions in the negative impacts of air pollution in Europe. By 2020, mortality from exposure to PM2.5 and ground-level ozone will fall by 27 and 11 per cent respectively. Forest and freshwater ecosystem areas where acid deposition will remain above the critical loads will shrink by more than 55 per cent. Less improvement is however expected for eutrophication, where the ecosystem areas with nitrogen depositions in excess of the critical loads will decline by about 20 per cent (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Changes in impact indicators from the emission reduction commitments of the revised Gothenburg protocol compared to the TSAP targets of the EU.
There are, however, significant regional differences across Europe. In most cases improvements will be bigger in the EU than in the non-EU countries, primarily because several non-EU parties did not provide emission reduction commitments. In particular, health damage from ozone is expected to further increase in the non-EU countries compared to 2000.
While the cost-effectiveness analysis presented to negotiators demonstrated a potential for cost-effective abatement measures beyond the current legislation, for which the benefits exceeded costs by a factor of ten or more, the current protocol commitments do not even achieve the improvements estimated for the current legislation case.
The protocol commitments also fail to achieve several of the targets set in the TSAP. The revised protocol is expected to reduce the years of life lost (YOLLs) from exposure to PM2.5 by 35 per cent in the EU, which means that additional measures will be necessary to meet the 47 per cent target of the TSAP. For eutrophication, the revised protocol is expected to deliver about half of the TSAP target (15 per cent improvement instead of 31 per cent) and for forest acidification 60 per cent improvement instead of 74 per cent. For water acidification and health damage from ground-level ozone, the TSAP targets are however likely to be achieved.
Environmental improvements of the revision of the Gothenburg Protocol. CIAM report 1/2012, preliminary version May 2012. By M Amann, et al. IIASA.
Note: For those (non-EU) parties that did not provide figures on reduction commitments to the Executive Body in May, the calculations by IIASA assume that emission levels in 2020 will remain the same as in 2005. For international shipping, emission levels in 2020 in line with implementation of the 2008 MARPOL Annex VI agreement of the International Maritime Organization were assumed. The calculations presented in the IIASA report are based on the emission reduction commitments relative to the emission levels for 2005 that have been estimated in GAINS based on the EMEP 2011 inventory.