Stakeholder’s Feedback


1         Information on stakeholders

AIRUSE coordinator prepared a questionnaire destined to stakeholders directly involved in air quality policy implementation. The objective was to survey the views of stakeholders in South Europe on the successes and failures of the present European air quality measures. The questionnaire consists of two major questions. The first question refers to the air quality situation in the perspective area. The second question is designed to learn about stakeholder opinions on the adequacy of EC measures with respect to air quality protection. The stakeholders are asked to report on the causes of EU limit values exceedances, improvements already achieved by air quality plans, relevant air quality issues, emission sources that probably are not regulated, and priorities to be set by EU and local authorities in the near future.

Selected stakeholders from Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece were invited to participate in the survey by e-mail. The team received 25 responses in total:  13 in SPAIN, 7 in GREECE, 1 in PORTUGAL and 4 in ITALY.


2         Air quality in South European countries

The majority of the stakeholders consider air quality in rural and semi-urban areas rather good or moderate. However, they state that the situation is different in urban areas. All stakeholders agree that deterioration of air quality in urban areas is due to road traffic followed by heavy oil combustion and biomass burning.

Another reason for the high concentrations episodes of PM in Southern Europe can be found in the occurrence of African dust intrusions. These episodes can be very intense in the Canary Islands, Spain and in South Greece as the corresponding stakeholders mention.

Furthermore, in recent years, wood burning in small stoves for home heating has constituted a major source of PM pollution in urban areas, in particular in Greece and Italy (Po Valley). This is partly caused by high-energy prices, which induced low-income households in particular to opt for cheaper alternatives.

3         Compliance with the European legislation

All stakeholders stated that exceedances of the PM and NO2 limit values established by the EC do occur while when taking into account the World Health Organization’s (WHO) stricter guidelines, a high percentage of the urban population in Southern Europe is exposed to excessive PM10 concentrations.

The stakeholders recognize that pollutant emissions were actually reduced in the last decade, however this reduction have not always resulted in lower exposure to PM. The share of the European urban population exposed to concentration levels of PM10 above the values set by EU legislation remains high and showed only a minor decline in the last decade.

4         Results achieved from air quality plans

Most of the stakeholders state that European measures and previous air quality plans have provided positive results. All stakeholders clearly identify the positive effect of the Large Combustion Plants and the IPPC & IED Directives, and sulphur content in fuels (whether used on ships and road traffic), producing a significant reduction of SO2 emissions. These reductions were noticeable both in urban and industrial areas. Also the effect of the EURO 4 and 5 standards on decreasing emissions of PM and CO from vehicles is noticeable.

In cities where regional and local action plans were implemented to improve air quality, beneficial effects were evidenced not only for gaseous pollutants but also for PM. An example is the Barcelona’s municipal and metropolitan authorities that have set up a body—the Committee for the Reduction of Air Pollution—tasked with drawing up and implementing measures to reduce air pollution within the area. The Committee constitutes a diverse and cross-cutting working group representing all the stakeholders, including municipal authorities, business and financial interests, social actors, ecologists and scientists as well as the transport and health sectors. An essential component of the strategy aimed at improving air quality in Barcelona is to reduce traffic density. Key measures that the Committee has undertaken include: the reduction of the public transportation emissions, promotion of bicycle use, the promotion of electric vehicles, regulation of private vehicle use (parking zones), use of porous pavement, street washing to reduce resuspension.

Similarly stakeholders from Italy state that in Florence after the implementation of the local air quality plan slight reductions on PM10 concentrations and NO2 emissions were reported. The air quality plan of Florence is focused on the improvement of the public transportation and the optimzation of the city´s traffic lines.

On the other hand, stakeholders in Greece report poor results of the local air quality plans in the greek cities and especially in Athens. The improvement of air quality in the last decade is mostly attributed to the improvement of the car technology having as consequence the reduction of vehicle emissions. Stakeholders also mention that the EURO standards were more efficient than the local measures.

It is important to highlight that many stakeholders state that the economic crisis in South European countries played a crucial role in the reduction of car emissions, and subsequently to the improvement of air quality.

5         Air quality concerns in South Europe

All stakeholders believe that more can be done in a European level to tackle all air quality problems. First of all, they believe that green and sustainable transport (use of bike) should be promoted in all cities given the health effects caused from the vehicle emissions. Many stakeholders stated that new pollutants like black carbon, BC should be regulated due to its association with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Black carbon is a good indicator/tracer of direct diesel emissions.  Other pollutants like volatile organic compounds VOCs, and particle number concentration also linked to adverse health effects should be regulated.

Stakeholders are also concerned for the natural contributions to PM concentrations from the frequent African dust intrusions in South Europe that cannot be controlled and regulated.

Most of the stakeholders mention the increased risks from the use of residential biomass burning in urban areas. They believe that these emissions should be regulated either by controlling the market of biomass fuels and/or the stoves used.

In Italy there is also a concern on the boundary layer dynamics that can significantly deteriorate air quality.

Stakeholders in Spain highlight the problem arising from resuspended particles that for the moment are not studied separately but only as a whole.

6         Emission sources that need new or stringent standards

Concerning emission sources stakeholder´s opinion is that an in-depth study should be undertaken to characterize emissions sources. In general, stakeholders highlight the problems arising from the use of biomass burning for domestic heating. Aspects like the economic crisis that caused changes in residential heating and the extensive use of fireplaces and stoves, or the inefficient control (unregulated combustion processes) should be carefully studied.

Stakeholders from Barcelona believe that shipping emissions should be regulated taking into account the increase of tourism and cruisers.

Some stakeholders suggest to give emphasis to the implementation of the current air quality standards before establishing and regulating new emission sources.

Representatives from public platforms stated that diesel emissions should be better regulated and EURO 6 standard should be revised

7         Reasons why air quality problems persist

The majority of stakeholders believe that air pollution problems mostly result from road traffic and they could be solved if the transportation system becomes cleaner and more energy efficient. They also consider wood burning as an emission source that deteriorates air quality specifically in urban areas. Natural contributions from Africa are also reported as one of the reason that air quality problems persist in areas affected frequently by desert dust intrusions.

8         Priorities to be set by the European Commission

Regarding the priorities that the European Commission should set in the near future there is a consensus between stakeholders. All stakeholders mention the necessity to improve public transport by making it greener and more efficient. Biking is considered as a measure to reduce air pollution in urban areas.

Other emission sources that need to be regulated include residential biomass burning and shipping emissions are seen as of great relevance in areas close to ports.

Raising public awareness on air quality issues is crucial for most of the participated stakeholders.