Tackling international air pollution

A panel led by Professor Martin Williams of the Environmental Research Group at King’s has reached an international agreement to update the ‘Gothenburg Protocol’, setting more ambitious targets to reduce trans-boundary air pollution across the northern hemisphere.

The Executive Body of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) have revised objectives for the Protocol that will see a reduction in EU emissions of around 60 per cent for sulphur, 40 per cent for nitrogen oxides, 30 per cent for volatile organic compounds, 6 per cent for ammonia and 20 per cent for particulate matter by 2020 compared with 2005.

The Protocol, adopted in 1999, set emission ceilings for pollutants on the basis of scientific assessments of pollution effects and abatement options.

The revised text of the Protocol includes national emission reduction commitments for main air pollutants to be achieved in 2020 and beyond. An emission ceiling for fine particular matter – the pollutant whose ambient air concentrations notoriously exceed air quality standards throughout Europe – will be included for the first time. It also sets tight limits for specific emission sources such as electricity production, cars and lorries.

Professor Martin Williams, Chairman of the Executive Body, said: ‘We made several important strides in a historic agreement last week in Geneva where Parties to the Gothenburg Protocol agreed an amended version, breaking new ground in three important areas.

‘It is the first international treaty to deal with the so-called ‘short-lived climate pollutants’ – toxic air pollutants which can also significantly affect the earth’s climate; secondly, for the first time, an international agreement sets emission ceilings for PM2.5 the most important air pollutant in terms of human health; thirdly the agreement should be sufficiently flexible that Eastern European countries, including the Russian Federation should be able to join the Protocol, which already includes the 27 EU countries, Norway, Switzerland and the USA among others.’

It is thought the new revisions will have a major global impact on health, the environment and climate change.

For further please Emma Reynolds, Press Officer emma.reynolds [a] kcl.ac (p) uk

 
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