Recently European Environmental Agency (EEA) assesses levels of air pollutants in ambient air across Europe and compares them against both European Union (EU) standards as set out in the ambient air quality directives and the 2021 World Health Organization (WHO) global air quality guidelines. The above Figure shows the share of the EU urban population exposed to air pollutant concentrations above EU standards and WHO guidelines in 2020.
A proposed revision of the Ambient Air Quality Directives by European Commission will set interim 2030 EU air quality standards, aligned more closely with WHO guidelines, while putting the EU on a trajectory to achieve zero pollution for air at the latest by 2050, in synergy with climate-neutrality efforts. To meet the old and new standards, member states have to develop specific air quality improvement plans and programmes.
The I-CHANGE partner Techne Consulting, which has been involved since the 90s in air quality planning in the Italian regions and in the Balkans, is actively working in this field in the Tuscany, Liguria, Veneto, Puglia, Abruzzo, Campania and Sicily regions and collaborated with the Ministry of the Environment on biomass combustion issues.
Monitoring of air quality shows that the most critical issues concern nitrogen oxides and fine particulate matter. The analysis of the emissions shows that the most important contributions are the combustion of wood for the fine particulate matter and road traffic for the nitrogen oxides. In air quality planning it is increasingly evident how the direct involvement of citizens can make the difference. Good air quality is also built through initiatives aimed at influencing the present and future behavior of citizens.
Today, it emerges how incisive the citizens’ behaviors are, for example in the use of inefficient wood appliances for domestic heating or in the use of individual vehicles for the daily mobility of people even when an alternative system is available. A further step is needed in the direction of knowledge and awareness of the critical factors and of the opportunities to contribute to the improvement of the quality of the air we breathe by not only administrations and businesses but by all citizens.
Particular attention will be paid to projects that see citizens and operators (for example the maintainers of heating appliances) actively involved in monitoring behavior and the effects of their changes, also with projects involving the monitoring of air quality. In this context, the proposal of Living Labs involved not only in monitoring but also in promoting changes in behavior is a characterizing element of some plans.
By Techne Consulting