Launched today, the JRC’s Air Quality Atlas for Europe shows the major categories of PM2.5 emission sources –and where those sources originate - for 150 cities across Europe.
PM2.5 are particles in the air, smaller than 2.5 micrometres (millionth of a metre - μm) in diameter. They include both directly emitted dust, smoke, soot, pollen and soil particles and particles that form directly in the atmosphere. PM2.5 are responsible for adverse health effects. In 2019, they were estimated to have caused about 307,000 premature deaths in the EU.
The Atlas gives a detailed picture of how transport, agriculture, industry, residential heating and shipping emissions affect PM2.5 pollution. Their contributions to air pollution vary greatly from one city to another. For example, in Malmö, the dominant source is transport. In Ljubljana, it is residential heating.
Particularly when above EU air quality standards, PM2.5 pollution affects public health, increasing health care costs and affecting the economy.
Knowing emission contributions and their origin can help cities develop measures that target their most polluting activities. It can also help in understanding whether local, national or European level interventions will be most effective.
Main sources of pollution
The Atlas shows that transport emissions represent an important contribution to the PM2.5 levels in several European cities. This is the case for cities such as Malmö (39% of overall PM2.5), Brescia (28%) and Parma (27%), Angers, and Verona (26%).
Although agricultural activities take place mostly outside cities, their emissions contribute significantly to PM2.5 concentration in many European cities. The highest contributions were found in Newcastle (34%), and in the German cities of Wolfsburg (32%), Hannover (31%), Kiel (30%) and Bonn (40%).
Industry plays a key role in air pollution in some cities. The highest contributions are in Linz (55%), Riga and Katowice (47%), Košice (44%) and Oviedo (44%).
The impact of residential heating is more important in some eastern countries and in some cities in Italy. The largest contributions were found in Ljubljana (45%), Turin (41%), Sofia (40%), Zagreb (38%) and Budapest (33%).
Shipping has also a key role, particularly in coastal cities like Valetta (33%), Palermo (29%), Palma de Mallorca (26 %), Athens (24%) and Bari (21%).
The results presented in the Atlas have been produced using a simplified air quality model developed by JRC (the SHERPA model).
The Atlas also clarifies the role that cities, regions, Member States and the EU can have in the reduction of air pollution.
Three conclusions arising from the analysis include:
- It is important to take into account city-specific circumstances when designing air quality plans. The impact of measures on PM concentrations differs from city to city, even for cities in the same country;
- For many cities, local actions at the city scale are an effective means of improving PM2.5 air quality. The main source of the pollution is often found within the city’s boundary;
- Sectoral measures addressing agriculture at country- or EU- scale can have a clear benefit on urban air quality.
- Publication date
- 17 November 2021