Reducing air pollution is essential for public health

reducing air pollution
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Climate policies implemented by EU Member States are insufficiently effective for reducing air pollution, a new report has found.

The European Environment Agency’s (EEA) briefing on Member States’ national climate policies in 2019 found that in total, Member States have implemented 1,925 policies aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change; more than 400 of which were put into place after 2017. The majority of these policies are economic instruments – offering subsidies for renewable energy adoption or increasing tariffs on heavily polluting processes – which comprised 44% of the strategies surveyed, or regulations, for example on energy efficiency, which comprised a further 43%. Policies mainly focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from energy and agriculture, with few policies actively directed at addressing growing public health concern over air pollution.

A Eurobarometer survey published last week ahead of the European Commission’s Clean Air Forum, held in Bratislava, Slovakia, found that 71% of European residents thought the EU should introduce stricter policy measures to improve air quality and reduce pollution, particularly from industrial processes. The EEA’s report found that the climate policies reported by Member States in 2019 were more concerned with energy efficiency in buildings (18%), wider adoption of renewable energy (16%) and promoting the uptake of low- and zero-emissions vehicles (7%).

A report conducted by the EEA on air quality across the EU earlier this year found levels of air pollution well above World Health Organization recommendations in most EU cities. Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said that the EEA’s report represented “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.”

In 2016, exposure to excessive levels of air pollution were cited as causative factors in 374,000 premature deaths across the bloc; and studies have associated exposure to airborne particulate matter with an array of diseases and conditions including heart and lung diseases, diabetes, strokes, miscarriages and Alzheimer’s disease. Children, the elderly and people in low income areas are particularly at risk.

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