Air Convention: More measures needed
Despite recent improvements in air quality in Europe and North America, air pollution is still the primary environmental cause of premature death and ecosystem biodiversity is threatened by nitrogen deposition, according to the report “Towards Cleaner Air” from the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP), released in Brussels on 31 May.
Over the last few decades, average life expectancy in Europe has increased by one year and hundreds of thousands of premature deaths every year have been avoided as a result of policy-driven actions to reduce air pollutant emissions. In addition, soil acidification has been halted in most parts of Europe, and fish stocks are recovering in freshwaters where they had largely disappeared.
The cost of damage to human health from air pollution (excluding damage to crops or buildings) is about €1,100 billion per year in Europe and over US$ 1,000 billion in the United States. For half the UN ECE countries, the total health costs of air pollution represent more than 10 per cent of GDP. The report finds that air pollution control costs are significantly lower than the health costs, which makes abatement measures a sound investment.
“Specific action will be needed to abate ammonia emissions, which principally come from agriculture. Abatement options will need to include reducing livestock densities in and around sensitive nature areas and encouraging low-meat diets,” said Anna Engleryd, Chair of the Executive Body for the LRTAP Convention.
Created in 1979, the LRTAP Convention now has 51 parties in the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) region, covering North America and almost the entire European continent.