Urban dwellers face the greatest threat of air pollution and according to a member of the European Court of Auditors, Janusz Wojciechowski, it has become the biggest environmental health risk facing the European Union. According to a recent report, about 400,000 premature deaths in the bloc are linked to air pollution in Forty-one European countries. External health-related costs also gulp billions of euros in the bloc.
The report of the European Environment Agency (EEA) based in Copenhagen blamed biomass and coal burning industries, households and power plants for premature deaths. The alarming mortality from air pollution negates the recent report that suggests an improvement in air quality. It also shows that some EU countries are falling short of emission limits.
Hans Bruyninckx, the Executive Director of EEA in a speech commended the some of the steps which the EU has taken in recent years. Bruyninckx mentioned that these policies have led to a decline in emission and the improvement of air quality. However, a permanent solution would be to address the root cause of the problem which is an innovative transformation of our food, mobility, and energy systems.
The Daring Consequences Of Air Pollution
Besides the well-known fact that green gases can cause global warming, nitrogen dioxide, ground-level ozone, and particulate matter are known to cause severe cardiovascular and respiratory disease or worsen such existing diseases. The report also linked these pollutants with a shorter lifespan and some forms of cancer.
These pollutants are also a huge threat to sustainable agriculture. Research has shown that the presence of ground-level ozone can lower crop yield. Coupled with the increasing natural disasters, this can set the pace for food shortage and cause serious harm to economies that rely on agriculture for foreign exchange.
How The Data From The Report Was Collected?
The report relied on data gathered across over 400 cities within the European Union between 2000 and 2014. Notwithstanding that there has been a general improvement in the quality of air, several urban cities still had a lot of particle pollution in 2014 at levels that the World Health Organization (WHO) considers harmful – albeit WHO has sterner standard than the European Union.
The EEA is worried that since 2010 a good number of member states in the European bloc has been exceeding the emission limit especially for nitrogen oxide which is largely churned out by automobile exhausts. The problem with air pollution is further complicated by the lack of sufficient data.
Google recently partnered with a San Francisco-based startup Aclima to develop Google Street View cars that drive around and systemically gather data on air pollution across different cities. Google is aiming to extend this data mapping across the world. This can help the EU to accurately determine which member countries and cities are exceeding the emission limits.
EU Set To Take Tougher Stand On Air Pollution
Germany is the only EU nation that has exceeded three of the four emission limit set by the bloc. This is largely because Germany meets nearly half of its energy need by burning coal. These excess emissions include ammonia, nitrogen oxides, and non-methane volatile organic compounds.
The European Parliament is looking at voting at a revised National Emission Ceilings Directive that would make the limits tougher. According to the European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, this will set the path for national and local actors to follow.
Air Pollution Is Draining European Funds
Wojciechowski told the Guardian that the level of death in Europe from the polluted air was unacceptable. According to the report presented by the ECA member, more than one thousand premature deaths are recorded on a daily basis across EU from air pollution. There is also a call for air pollution to be treated with utmost priority.
In the past, the European Union usually spends €1.8billion to fight air pollution but the amount has almost doubled to €3.4billion in recent times.
Some EU Nations Are Not Sincere
The bloc accused some of her nations of lack of sincerity in the fight against air pollution. For example, the auditors noted that Ostrava in the Czech Republic failed to report valid data in 2015. The UK has also been accused of breaching the air quality limits set by the European Union.