Where are air pollution science and policy heading?

Photo: flickr.com/MHooper/cc by-nc-sa

Future directions in air pollution science and policy were the focus of an international workshop held in Gothenburg, Sweden in June 2013. Attention focused on international air pollution control activities, primarily those linked to the ongoing review of the EU’s Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution and the long-term strategy of the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution.

Topics of main concern were combined air pollution and climate change policies, actions to reduce emissions of reactive nitrogen, health impacts of air pollution, effects-based air pollution policies and the roadmap for going from regional to global air pollution policies.

The discussions focused on possibilities to achieve improved air quality to protect health, ecosystems and materials while at the same time ensure benefits for climate change, biodiversity and other related policy areas.

Some selected key conclusions and recommendations were:

  • Further emission reductions, especially from diesel cars, non-road mobile machinery, domestic solid fuel combustion and agriculture are needed to reduce long-term population exposure;
  • It is crucial that the EU road vehicle standards (Euro 6/VI) will also deliver the anticipated emission reductions under real-world driving conditions;
  • The forthcoming revised EU National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive could be used as a first step for addressing emissions of the ozone precursors methane and carbon monoxide for both air quality and health purposes, at the same time benefiting near-term climate;
  • For the new Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution and related revisions of EU legislation, the European Commission should consider making optimal use of the available technical abatement potential in 2025 and move towards the long-term objective of “no significant impacts on health and ecosystems” by 2030, at which time it should be possible to incorporate the potential co-benefits from the climate and energy package and the Common Agricultural Policy revision;
  • Local and national governments should reduce exposure of urban population to air pollution through additional incentives to reduce emissions from local combustion sources. Fuel switching, retrofitting and/or early replacement of vehicles and small-scale combustion installations, as well as incentives to reduce car mobility and energy use should have priority;
  • Local and national governments should develop reduction plans to bring nitrogen deposition, and concentrations of ammonia and nitrogen oxides over designated nature protection areas, such as Natura2000 sites, down towards critical loads and levels.

Further information on the workshop “Saltsjöbaden V – Taking international air pollution policies into the future”, including the conclusions and recommendations can be found at http://www.saltsjobaden5.ivl.se/.

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