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People or the weather – what improves air quality? 

 

When one side says: “We have an improvement in air quality” and the other says: “Yes, but it’s only because winter was mild and people didn’t overuse their boilers“, the question is: who’s right? In order to answer this question, the authors of this study decided to look at the impact of meteorological factors on changes in air quality observed in recent years. 

The greatest reduction thanks to the interventions to reduce the amount of emissions (after eliminating the influence of meteorological factors) was achieved for 2 stations in Kraków: 22.9 μg/m3 and 22.6 μg/m3. In turn, the worst results were obtained for 2 stations in Gdańsk and 1 in Warsaw, where human activity contributed to an increase in concentrations.

 

New Air Quality Plans.
Review of Recommended Actions

 

Our Report the New Air Quality Plans. Review of Recommended Actions. presents (in Polish) selected provisions of air quality plans (AQP) which, in our opinion, constitute the best available practices in the field of AQPs adopted so far. We hope that the solutions presented here will serve as an inspiration for further work on subsequent AQP updates in other regions. The AQP of Małopolksa, Mazowieckie and Lower Silesa region were analyzed.The selected regulations have been broken down into the main sectors of pollutant emissions, i.e. low-stack emission, transport and industry. The last part of the Report contains a short analysis of the areas where intervention at the government level is necessary in order to significantly improve the implementation of AQPs.

 

The Health Impact Assessment for Malopolska variants of draft Air Quality Plan

 

The Health Impact Assesment for Malopolska variants of draft Air Quality Plan Report (in Polish) is an comprehensive analysis done European Clean Air Center experts. The results show that it is necessary to fully implement the requirements of the anti-smog resolution for Małopolska as soon as possible. Analyzes show that without additional ambitions, the number of premature deaths due to exposure to high concentrations of PM2.5 dust can be reduced by as much as 800 annually compared to the baseline scenario. Implementing full antismog bill, mortality would drop by 1450 annually in Malopolska. Implementing full antismog bill, would drop mortality by 1450 cases annually in Malopolska.

 

 

STATE OF AIR QUALITY IN POLAND

 

The State of Air Quality in Poland Report provides a comprehensive overview on air quality in Poland, with information on main emission sources and their contribution to air pollutant concentrations, legislation and financial instruments aimed at air quality protection, social attitudes towards the problem of air pollution as well as health impacts and economic costs. The report outlines the main areas of air pollution interventions, assessing effectiveness of respective measures and identifying gaps and problems to be addressed. It has been prepared by a wide range of experts and includes information which has not been published elsewhere.


Poland has high concentrations of PM10, PM2.5 and benzo(a)pyrene (BaP). The majority of air pollution comes from low-stack emissions, i.e. heating of buildings with coal and wood in technologically outdated boilers. Although extensive progress in legislation covering low-stack sources has been achieved in recent years, much remains to be done when it comes to enforcement of this legislation and streamlining of financial programmes. Exceedances of NO2 are low compared to those observed in Western European countries. Transport, while being the main source of NO2, has a much lower share in particulate matter pollution and exerts a negligible impact on BaP emissions. Legislation on transport is largely missing as there are no regulations on low emission zones or dust particulate filter (DPF) tampering.


Air quality management has no single authority and is mainly performed at a national and regional level. Definitely better regulations are needed for municipalities to take action, with the most crucial element being instruments for low-stack inventories and control of antismog resolutions on the household level.

Campaigns for clean air are very visible and have been instrumental in improving air quality action in urban areas.. Financial programmes for low-stack emission abatement, although available, are in need of further reforms to be effective. Even the most effective programmes, however, require proper promotion, which is currently lacking.

STATE OF AIR QUALITY IN BULGARIA: OVERVIEW

The State Of Air Quality In Bulgaria: Overview Report, that presents the trends in air quality in Bulgaria, discusses the approaches to emission inventories, outlines the existing regulatory environment, summarizes the currently available funding options for air quality measures and highlights concrete actions in air quality management that Bulgarian cities have taken. The overall aim of the document is, based on the current context of air quality management in the country, to identify opportunities for further actions on improving air quality in Bulgaria. See more »

Alert thresholds

Despite the fact that the EU CAFE Directive (Directive 2008/50/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe) introduces alert thresholds for ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, as for PM pollution Member States are given a free hand. As a result PM alert thresholds differ substantially across the EU, from 300 ug/m3 in Poland (only recently reduced to 150 ug/m3), to 50 ug/m3 in Germany. Cities and countries have adopted a different set of measures aimed at reducing PM concentration in the short term and different strategies for informing the public and the most sensitive groups about poor air quality. ECAC has led the work on the new information and alert thresholds for Poland, which recently have been reduced from 300 ug/m3 to 150 ug/m3.

Taking effective measures in order to curb air pollution in the short term and inform the public about poor air quality is important to reduce the negative impacts on public health. Within the European Union, each year over 140 thousand people are admitted to hospitals due to exacerbation of respiratory system diseases and additional 108 thousand due to exacerbation of cardiac system diseases in EU1. Some of these admittances could be avoided by effective measures aimed at short term pollution reduction and minimization of pollution exposure.ECAC has led the work on the new information and alert thresholds for Poland, which to date has the highest values for the alarm threshold (300 μg/m3) and information threshold (200 μg/m3). The Task Force on Health Impacts of Air Pollution, at the Public Health Council has prepared an analysis for setting an informative and alert threshold for daily PM10 concentrations. The analysis compares the number of hospitalizations assigned to PM10 exposure exceeding various threshold concentrations above the limit value of 50 μg/m³ during the heating period. The task force also estimated exceedances of different daily PM10 thresholds in respective regions.The analysis used official monitoring data on concentrations of PM10 in the heating season (1st and 4th quarter) in the years 2015-2017. The data on the daily number of people hospitalized for respiratory and circulatory diseases in each municipality was provided by the National Health Fund.The analysis carried out showed that the number of avoidable hospitalizations at the adoption of high threshold values is negligible on the national scale. For example, by eliminating days with a concentration of 150 μg/m³, the number of hospitalizations attributed to the exposure can be reduced by only 12%. To achieve 50% or 75% reduction, it is required that the level of 82 μg/m³ or respectively 63 μg/m³ is not exceeded. Based on the analysis, the Task Force has recommended the lowering of the current alarm and informative levels to the value of 80 μg/m³and 60 μg/m³respectively for the average daily concentration of PM10.

CAFE Directive fitness check

European Clean Air Centre strongly supports the work on the revision of the EU Ambient Air Quality (AAQ) Directives, 2008/50/EC and 2004/107/EC. We hope that their fitness check will allow to construct and implement better regulations reducing air pollution, thus improving public health. Among the specific criteria addressed by ECAC to be implemented in the new law are: introduction of a daily limit value for PM2,5; reduction of SO2 daily limit values; unification of maximum alert and information thresholds for PM10.

1. Relevance:

  1. New limits for daily PM2.5. Most severe short-term health effects are related with the smaller fraction of particulate matter. However, there are no daily limits on its concentration. The contribution of PM2.5 to PM10 is not constant and varies between regions and seasons of year. Therefore a daily value should be implemented, including an annual number of allowed exceedances, similar to current daily thresholds for PM10.

  2. Lower SO2 daily limit. The current EU sulphur dioxide daily limit is 6-times higher than the WHO air quality guidelines. This discrepancy should be limited within the new legislation, as the current EU legislation suggests that concentrations surpassing the WHO limit are still safe for public health. Sulphur ions pose a threat to health also due to the fact that they contribute to formulation of secondary particulate matter.
    See more »

2. Effectiveness

  1. Standards for low cost sensors. Recent rising public concern regarding air pollution has led to development of networks of low-cost sensors. On the one hand they bring necessary information to local communities on current air pollution levels, on the other the relevance of the results presented by them is questionable. There is a growing need for technical guidelines/standard for this type of devices, since some of them might produce results that are highly irrelevant.
    See more »

  2. Emission inventory on a local scale. In order to properly monitor air quality improvement or deterioration, there is a need for implementation of systems that will follow the number and types of transport and low-stack emission sources. This approach will allow to measure progress in reducing emission, omitting interference from the wheatear. Local and regional inventories should constitute an obligatory part of Air Quality Plans.
  3. Calculating health effects for regions. Currently adverse health effects of air pollution are presented for whole member states. There is a need for provision of local and regional level data, in order to connect it to local and regional air protection measures.

3. Efficiency:

  1. EU-wide maximum information and alert thresholds for PM10. Despite the fact that the EU CAFE Directive (Directive 2008/50/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe) introduces alert thresholds for ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, as for PM pollution Member States are given a free hand. As a result PM alert thresholds differ substantially across the EU, from 300 ug/m3 in Poland, to 50 ug/m3 in Germany. Cities and countries have adopted a different set of measures aimed at reducing PM concentration in the short term, including free public transport, restrictions on car use, ban on fireplace use, controls of what is combusted in household installations, closure of schools, to name just a few of them. They also use different strategies for informing the public and the most sensitive groups about poor air quality.Taking effective measures in order to curb air pollution in the short term and inform the public about poor air quality is important to reduce the negative impacts on public health. Within the European Union, each year over 140 thousand people are admitted to hospitals due to exacerbation of respiratory system diseases and additional 108 thousand due to exacerbation of cardiac system diseases in EU1. Some of these admittances could be avoided by effective measures aimed at short term pollution reduction and minimization of pollution exposure.

    There is a strong need to create obligatory maximum alert and information threshold levels for member states as well as a recommended list of actions that can be deployed by municipalities when these levels are exceeded. This will translate into reduction of exposure to high PM10 concentrations of all EU citizens and increase public awareness of poor air quality as well as acceptance for air protection measures.

    More on our work within this area in Poland here »

  2. CBA for transport and low stack emission sectors. There is a need to develop a list of indicators that would allow municipalities to estimate costs and benefits from implementing local air quality improvement measures.

Development of the Regional Action Plan for Climate and Energy for Małopolska, Poland

ECAC is involved in the work on the Regional Action Plan for Climate and Energy (RAPCE) supporting low-carbon transition of the region and mobilizing public and private finance in this area. Małopolska is the first Polish region to adopt a dedicated plan for climate change mitigation. The Plan is developed by the Environmental Department of the Małopolska Marshal Office, in co-operation with the Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Technology, European Clean Air Centre as well as local authorities, civil society and other stakeholders (companies, administration units, etc.).

The RAPCE will be designed in the way that increases synergies between air quality and climate policies. Currently, air quality improvement measures are supported by the European Commission under LIFE Integrated Project “Implementation of Air Quality Plan for Małopolska Region – Małopolska in a healthy atmosphere” (https://powietrze.malopolska.pl/en/). LIFE IP focuses on the reduction of PM and PAH emissions into atmosphere (i.e. implementation of CAFE Directive). RAPCE will be closely linked with the National Energy and Climate Plan 2021 – 2030 (NECP) increasing the level of ambition for climate change mitigation actions on the regional and local level. The RAPCE will have three major dimensions: (i) green heat, (ii) green electricity and (iii) green mobility.

GREEN HEAT

Unprecedented transition in domestic heating has started in the Malopolska Region with adoption of antismog regulations by the Regional Parliament (Sejmik), i.e. a ban on using solid fuels for heating in Kraków since 1 September 2019 and the resolution imposing emission standards for solid fuel heating appliances since 1 July 2017 (new devices) and 1 January 2023 (existing devices). In 2017 as many as 80% of 527,000 single family buildings were heated with non-compliant solid fuel boilers. Solid-fuel sources are also present in multifamily and public buildings (predominantly coal-fired tile stoves or coal boiler rooms). Wide energy transition of buildings stimulated by clean air regulations is one of the major challenges for the region in the coming years. Currently, replacement of heat sources is supported with domestic and EU funds. Since recently owners of SFBs can benefit from the national Clean Air Program (thermal retrofits and heat source replacement) as well as income tax relief. Necessary steps must be taken, however, to improve the uptake of those funds. Climate policy targets (CO2 emission reduction in non-ETS building sector) can be aligned with clean air targets (reduction of PM pollution) However, this is not given for granted. For example, the replacement of existing solid fuel boilers with new coal boilers yields 10 times reduction of particulate matter but increases CO2 emissions by 20% due to the fact that in old type boilers biomass is cocombusted with coal, while new, automatic boilers run on coal only. The main objective of the Plan as well as the Integrated Project will be to promote and strengthen synergies between clean air and climate policies and incentivise those investments that contribute simultaneously to objectives of both policies. The main prerequisites are energy efficiency improvement of building stock and increased use of RES in the heating sector. Retrofits of SFBs in the Malopolska region triggered by antismog resolutions may yield annual reductions of CO2 emission of 1.5 to 2.5 million tons (for whole Poland it is between 15 and 25 million tons/year). The action undertaken under the RAPCE will stimulate the uptake of the funds for building modernization: participation in the EUR-25-billion Clean Air Programme (CAP) for retrofits of single family buildings, use of income tax relief for energy efficiency improvement of residential buildings and other programmes for energy efficiency improvement of building stock.

GREEN ELECTRICITY

The second dimension of the RAPCE will be green electricity. Currently the government of Poland has started a broad program for mass-scale development of prosumer, RES microinstallations and PVs in residential and public buildings as well as in SMEs. The new legislative framework has been developed by the government (currently in the legislative process in the Parliament). Moreover, since 1 January 2019 people can benefit from income tax relief for rooftop PV installations. Simultaneously, the government has encouraged commercial banks to offer financing instruments for such installations (e.g. 4.99% loan offered without collateral by the largest retail bank in Poland). Combination of the tax relief and low-interest rate loans makes the PV investments in households commercially viable. This translates into growing interest in micro PV installations. The major electric utility in southern region (Tauron Dystrybucja) in the fourth quarter of 2018 alone connected to the grid 3 thousand micro-installations (28 MW) whilst, for comparison, in the entire 2017 it connected 4 thousand installations (24 MW). A real boom for small scale PVs is expected with introduction of fiscal and financial incentives. Popularizing RES micro-installations, however, still requires significant effort from the government as well as regional and local authorities (i.e. regulatory ease, technical assistance and information campaigns).

GREEN MOBILITY

The third dimension of RAPCE will be green mobility (urban and regional approach). Urban approach will focus on policies promoting a less CO2 intensive modal split and regional action will focus on supporting the development of public transportation.