Monday, September 9, 2013

What Improvements Are Needed to Regulate Urban Air Quality?

Today we review a report from the European Commission on a pilot project carried out in 12 cities to assess and make recommendations on the deficiencies and next steps to address the threats to human health from urban air pollution. Despite (or perhaps because of) the enactment of more restrictive regulations than seen elsewhere in the world, several pollutants remain above thresholds (O3, PM2.5 and NO2 in particular), gaps remain in emission inventories and networks and the principal solution lies in regulating traffic. Recommendations include putting a much greater focus on data, distributing information to the public and carrying out regular health impact assessments.
vienna traffic NO2
Key Quotes:

“Eight cities originally took part in the pilot: Berlin, Dublin, Madrid, Malmö, Milan, Ploiesti, Prague, and Vienna. Four more cities subsequently joined at the end of 2012: Antwerp, Paris, Plovdiv, and Vilnius.”

Current Deficiencies:
  • emission inventories…”Cities have problems taking into account all sources of pollution, due to the difficulty in finding available data, or because of the difficulty in appropriately quantifying different sources.”
  • modeling.. “Because air quality models make use of emission inventories, often the shortcomings of these inventories carry over to the modelling activities”
  • monitoring networks…”criterion for the macro‑scale siting of ozone stations (their distribution between urban and suburban locations) has not always been met”
  • management practices…”In most of the cities, and in agreement with the main pollutant sources identified, more than the 50 % of the implemented measures are traffic related”
  • public information…”the cities underuse mass media, social media websites, and new technologies like smartphone applications….cities lacked feedback on the interest of their citizens in air quality issues.”
“Next steps:
  • focus on data. The Air Implementation Pilot has shown the importance of comparable, timely information on air quality, and the role of this information in improving implementation….
  • streamline further its own information systems to support the implementation of EU air policy….
  • deliver regular assessments of European air pollution, its impacts, and the effectiveness of air quality measures…”
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