How Europe wants to reduce the number of deaths linked to air pollution

This is significant news, at a time of daily statistics on the devastation of the global pandemic. The European Union is following an encouraging path to avoid losing hundreds of thousands of lives to pollution every year. This is the report “Clean Air Perspectives” from the European Commission, published on January 8, which says so.

Exposure to fine particles causes 400,000 premature deaths each year in the EU, according to the European Environment Agency. The toll of this massacre is expected to decrease by 28% between 2020 and 2030, the report notes, and even by 55% compared to the base year (2005). Yes, but on condition that all the objectives of the 2016 directive on the reduction of national emissions of certain air pollutants are implemented.

“Since 2000, the EU’s GDP has increased by around 30%, while emissions of key air pollutants have decreased by 10% to 70%, depending on the pollutant,” welcome the authors. They highlight “Impacts on all ecosystems”, shortly before the One Planet summit, organized Monday January 11 in Paris on the theme of biodiversity.

This progress is mainly the result of efforts to eliminate the most polluting car engines, as well as to insulate buildings. Countries that do not comply with the imposed standards (in terms of emissions per day, or per month) are penalized by fines. The report highlights a “Overall gain for society” : the planned measures would make it possible to achieve between 7 and 21 billion euros in net benefits per year by 2030 if they were already applied, in large part thanks to a less heavy burden on health systems.

“It is essential that all Member States fully implement the agreed and planned measures, and step up their efforts”, underlined Virginijus Sinkevicius, the environment commissioner, when submitting the report which recommends taking better account of pollutants still too much ignored. This is the case with ammonia, due to the spreading of fertilizers in the fields, or animal excreta in intensive farming. On entering the atmosphere, this substance degrades to turn into fine particles.

Far from being limited to rural areas, this pollution also affects large urban areas, and consequently affects millions of inhabitants, underlines Cathy Clerbaux, researcher at the CNRS who analyzes these emissions using the European satellite MetOp. “It is only recently that we have better understood the pollution peaks of March-April, in cities like Paris or Brussels. During this period, the sources of pollution combine, that of the spreading is added to that of the heating, until dominating over the rest ”, she explains. The report highlights the “Crucial role” that will have the new common agricultural policy (CAP) still under negotiation. Within the framework of the European “green pact”, the European Commission is showing an ambition “Zero pollution for air, water and soil . A promise that will necessarily go through a revolution in the agricultural sector.


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