D.Air quality in Germany has improved. According to the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), pollution from particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide continues to decline overall. In 2020 six and in 2019 also 25 cities were affected by the exceeding of the nitrogen dioxide limit. In 2021 there will likely be fewer than five cities, according to the Dessau authorities.
But there is no reason to celebrate, as the limit values are likely to be tightened further soon. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already published new recommendations for lower limit values for some air pollutants. They are not binding. Not yet.
“We assume that some limit values will be tightened,” says Ute Dauert, head of the UBA department for air quality assessment. The guideline values for PM fine particles are affected10 and PM2.5 (PM means particle size, the number behind indicates particles less than 10 or 2.5 micrometers) and ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and carbon monoxide (CO). For all other pollutants, the previous assessments, recommendations and guide values continue to apply.
Further reductions in pollutants would require drastic measures. Fine powder example: For PM2.5 A limit of 25 micrograms per cubic meter has been in place throughout Europe since 2015. This value has not been exceeded in Germany since then. However, WHO specifies five micrograms as an ultimate target. This can only be achieved with a definite turnaround in transport and energy and measures in agriculture, hence Dauert.
However, the WHO target of five micrograms can also be surpassed by natural sources and transportation from other countries, says Dauert. “On mountains like Schauinsland in the Black Forest a value of six micrograms was measured.” The reason for this is, for example, the fine dust of volcanic eruptions or forest fires.
Air pollution in eurosEuropean capitals
The obligation to respect limit values for air pollution exists everywhere in Europe. But obviously European capitals have different efforts or interests in improving air quality. This is according to the UK consumer portal Uswitch, based on nonprofit Air Quality Index (AQI) data collected by environmental agencies and departments in 2,000 major cities in 132 countries.
Measurements of fine particles and O3NO2LIKE THIS2 and CO, and their percentage change between 2019 and 2021 were pooled and the data analyzed in mid-January. As a result, Berlin improved its air pollutant emissions by nearly 5.6% over the period. But this is only enough for 13th place out of 24 capitals.
According to the study, Athens saw the largest reduction in air pollution, with a decline of nearly 35%. From 2019 to 2020, the decline was nearly 43%. But this has a lot to do with the stalemate of the corona in early 2020, because in 2021 the pollutant load increased again by 14.2%. Additionally, the Greek capital has been known for its smog pollution for decades, so it has plenty of room for improvement.
The second highest improvement in air quality was in Dublin, with an overall reduction in air pollution of nearly 25%. Stockholm comes in third with a good 18 percent drop. Unlike Athens and Dublin, air pollution continued to decline in 2021. Similarly, Copenhagen, in fifth place, managed to achieve a continuous reduction in emissions by a total of twelve percent.
17 capitals improved air quality between 2019 and 2021. It deteriorated in seven cities. Reykjavík comes in last with nearly 14% more air pollution.
Volcanic ash and turbulence on the beach were the main culprits there, causing fine dust values to rise from less than four to more than 200 micrograms per cubic meter in just a few days in 2021. However, the Icelandic capital is still the European metropolis with the cleanest air.
On the other hand, Budapest, with a penultimate place in the comparison between cities and 12.2% worst air pollution, consolidates its position as the capital with one of the worst air quality in Europe.
Madrid – ranked 21st – is the only Mediterranean city on the list to have suffered a deterioration in air quality, according to the Uswitch study. And Warsaw and Bratislava were also the capitals, with increases of 2.7 and 2.6 per cent respectively, worsening the air quality values, which are already among the worst of the 24 cities interviewed.
In Germany, according to UBA, there was certainly a measuring point in Munich and Ludwigsburg last year with annual average values above the limit value. But the data from around 115 so-called passive collectors have yet to be evaluated, i.e. measuring stations that do not transmit their data to UBA online, but are read on the spot, according to the office. So there may be some extra limit violations.
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