Air quality report shows excessive pollution levels in most EU cities

air quality report
© iStock/Vladimirs_Gorelovs

The European Environment Agency’s (EEA) 2019 air quality report, analysing levels of exposure to air pollution across the EU, has been released.

The air quality report shows that almost all residents of the EU’s cities are exposed to levels of air pollution in excess of guidelines set by the World Health Organisation (WHO). In 2016, 374,000 premature deaths in the EU were attributed to exposure to harmful air pollution levels; with poor standards of air quality also cited as causative factors in reduced yields from agriculture and forestry, lowered levels of labour productivity and heightened costs of healthcare.

EEA Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx said: “Europe has now a unique opportunity to set an ambitious agenda that tackles the systemic causes of environmental pressures and air pollution. We are making progress but it’s time to speed up the changes in our energy, food and mobility systems to put us on a trajectory of sustainability and a healthy environment.”

The report found long term concentrations of the pollutant fine particulate matter which exceeded WHO guidelines at monitoring stations in all EU Member States except Estonia and Finland. Concentrations of fine particulate matter further exceeded limits set by the EU in seven Member States: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Italy, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. However, the EEA noted that air quality across the EU is improving more or less consistently, due primarily to the increasing prevalence of local and national regulations governing the reduction of pollutant emissions.

Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: “The European Environment Agency’s ‘Air Quality in Europe’ report is an important and timely reminder that air pollution continues to impact most regions across the European Union; and [that it] affects the lives of most citizens. It is simply unacceptable that any of us should need to worry about whether the simple act of breathing is safe or not. We therefore need to work even harder to make sure our EU air quality standards are met everywhere.”

Diego Pavia, CEO of EIT InnoEnergy, said: “Europe, as a region, has some of the most progressive energy technologies and climate policies in the world, but we need to do more. Our Clean Air Challenge report identifies that EU citizens stand to save a staggering €183bn by adopting innovative, air pollution technologies over the next six years. It’s imperative that Europe continues to lead the way on tackling emissions – we have the ingenuity and we certainly have the resources, but the tipping point will be how we advance transport and heat solutions across our nations. Policy will be a critical enabler, but first, we need the right technologies and create broad recognition that everybody’s choices, from businesses to public sectors and families, have an impact on a more sustainable future.”

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