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May, 2016:

Why electric cars aren’t the best route to truly sustainable transport in Hong Kong

Evan Auyang says a green transport policy must include steps to curb the huge growth in vehicle numbers, adopt more technology, and promote walking and cycling

Hail the adoption of electric cars in Hong Kong! Already a bestseller in the city, electric car maker Tesla recently announced it will soon launch a more affordable model. Crowds lined up at Tesla’s three showrooms across Hong Kong, even though the car won’t be ready until 2017. “It is very important to accelerate the transition to sustainable transport,” declared Telsa’s chief executive officer Elon Musk.

Is Hong Kong finally moving towards a more sustainable transport system? The government is certainly doing its share to promote the adoption of electric vehicles, having built more than 1,000 charging points across the city and offering tax incentives for the purchase of the cars. Indeed, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah personally leads the Steering Committee on the Promotion of Electric Vehicles, which includes six other secretaries (or their representatives), including the environment, transport and development secretaries, as well as business leaders in the sector. This indicates the importance the government places on the issue.

And let’s not forget, Hong Kong is No 1 in the world in terms of adoption of public transport. Ninety per cent of motorised journeys are made on public transport such as railways, buses and minibuses. This, coupled with the continued building of railways and the introduction of electric buses, plus increasing adoption of private electric cars, must mean Hong Kong is heading towards having the most sustainable transport system in the world, right?

Not quite.

Hong Kong lags significantly behind the rest of the world in at least three areas of sustainable transport policymaking: road space and congestion management; adoption of technology; and embracing cycling and walking as a popular means of longer-distance transport.

First, Hong Kong does not have a good vision of road space usage. This is clear from the worsening congestion on our roads, which is spreading beyond the traditionally busy areas such as Central. Now, traffic jams are common in Kowloon East (supposedly the emerging second central business district), Sha Tin, Tseung Kwan O, Tuen Mun and even Yuen Long.

The cause is the unprecedented rise in the number of vehicles on the roads in recent years, particularly private cars. From 2006 to 2016, the number of private cars has increased by 46 per cent, from 390,000 to 570,000, while the population has risen by less than 7 per cent. This alone accounts for 95 per cent of the increase in the total number of vehicles over the past 10 years. Hong Kong’s road building averages less than 1 per cent (in kilometre terms) per year. This means the number of vehicles is growing much faster than our roads can accommodate.

The impact of uncontrolled vehicle growth cannot be underestimated. As congestion mounts, the road-based public transport system (that is, buses and minibuses), which carries 50 per cent of public transport users, deteriorates in performance. Indeed, average bus speeds have fallen significantly in recent years. Because railways cannot reach all areas of Hong Kong and are generally deemed uncomfortable during peak hours, this would spur the increasing adoption of private cars. A vicious cycle is then produced, of even more vehicles on the road and even more desire to own a car for comfort and convenience. In fact, this is precisely what has been happening in the past few years.

Roads are like the blood vessels of a city – when they clog, economic activity slows. It’s possible to think of a handful of cities that have never lived up to their potential, such as Beijing, Bangkok and Mumbai, as the best international talent does not wish to live in severely congested cities.

Second, Hong Kong has been slow to adopt many sustainable transport and “smart city” practices. While it is truly world-class in its ability to build infrastructure, the city is not at the forefront in the adoption of IT-enabled demand-management tools. For example, many cities have heavily invested in smart information technology systems to control traffic flows, with major roads managed by sensors and cameras. Illegally parked cars are ticketed from traffic control rooms rather than relying on physical enforcement. In Hong Kong, illegal parking takes up 60 per cent of traffic police time.

In congestion-conscious cities like London, smart systems have been implemented to automatically manage traffic flows along major corridors on a real-time basis. Where traffic flows are determined to be less than optimal, algorithms automatically adjust the phases of traffic signals.

Singapore has already established working groups to look into driverless vehicles. By utilising the research and development know-how of the private sector, it is on the cusp of launching a pilot driverless bus service as well as on-demand private driverless car services and shuttles. For Hong Kong to be a truly world-class city, we need to get to the cutting edge of technological adoption, and research and development.

Third, Hong Kong has yet to embrace the truly green options of walking and cycling. Globally, international cities have implemented new policies to promote these non-motorised forms of transport. Cities are now increasingly aware that walking is actually the most efficient and greenest way to travel short distances and, as a result, have invested heavily in widening pavements and closing off vehicle lanes to create green space.

Pedestrianisation around New York’s Times Square has led to a dramatic fall in motorised traffic, while also cleaning up the air and allowing more tourists to take a pleasant stroll and shop in the area. Politically, this was very difficult initially, but citizens embraced the idea soon after it was implemented.

We must recognise that true sustainable transport goes well beyond just applauding the increased adoption of private electric vehicles and upgrading the city’s bus fleet and polluting diesel trucks. A more holistic approach is needed to imagine, then create, greener urban spaces for our future. It takes planning and execution. Moreover, it takes vision, knowledge and political courage to generate the right discussions to enable even small steps to be taken.

Evan Auyang is a board director of the independent think tank Civic Exchange

Source URL:

Hong Kong urged to improve ventilation and use cleaner vehicles to combat cancer threat from pollution

Experts suggest remedies for the city after study highlights health risk from tiny airborne particles

A better ventilated city, cleaner vehicles and more pedestrianised areas are among the suggestions by experts to minimise exposure to pollutants after a study confirmed a link between tiny particles in the air and a higher risk of death from multiple cancers.

They also advised the public to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The study by the University of Hong Kong and the University of Birmingham revealed that the risk of dying from any cancer rose by 22 per cent for every 10 micrograms per cubic metre of increased exposure to PM2.5 – the fine airborne particulates that are small enough to enter the lungs.

According to Clean Air Network, PM2.5 concentrations were highest in Yuen Long and Causeway last year, with annual average readings clocking in at 30 and 37 micrograms per cubic metre of air respectively.

The reading in Central from 7pm to 8pm reached 51 – more than double the World Health Organisation limit of 25.

Other districts with consistently high levels included Tuen Mun, Kwun Tong and Kwai Chung.

HKU’s Dr Thach Thuan Quoc, co-lead author of the study, said while it was difficult for people to avoid PM2.5 there were ways to reduce exposure.

“Air pollutants are everywhere,” said Thach. “Staying on higher floors would help, but that’s related to one’s financial condition.”

Edward Ng Yan-yung, a professor of architecture at Chinese University, said: “Air pollutants could be blown away with a better ventilated city. There should be more space between buildings.”

Ng said space mattered more than height, and wind should enter from the side to blow away air pollutants. Cleaner vehicles would also reduce the source of emissions of the pollutants.

And developing a more specific air pollution alert could prevent people from going to polluted areas.

Clean Air Network chief executive Patrick Fung Kin-wai said the only practical short-term measure residents could take was to avoid heavily polluted areas as much as possible.

“Long-term measures will require changes in transport and planning policy, establishing more low-emission zones and developing more pedestrianisation,” he said.

Dr Stephen Chan-lam, associate professor in oncology at Chinese University, said it was time the government took serious action to tackle air pollution. He advised the public to maintain good health through regular exercise and a balanced diet.

“But while there are unpreventable factors behind cancer such as age, sex, and gene factors, inhaling polluted air is a preventable cause,” Chan said. “The government should review its cancer prevention strategies.”

Ecosystems more sensitive than previously thought

Three-quarters of EU ecosystems are currently exposed to more nitrogen deposition than they can cope with and nearly one-tenth is receiving too much acid fallout.

Critical loads are scientific estimates of the amounts of pollutants that various ecosystems can tolerate without being harmed. They are sometimes referred to as the limits on what “nature can tolerate.”

If pollutant depositions exceed the critical load limit, damage to sensitive ecosystems will by definition occur sooner or later.

The sensitivity of various ecosystems to exposure to acidifying and eutrophying air pollutants has been monitored and mapped for more than 25 years, and European countries coordinate this work through the Coordination Centre for Effects (CCE) of the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP).

Recently, the CCE has developed a new set of maps, using updated information from the countries’ national experts. By comparing the critical load maps with data on air pollutant deposition, the CCE has also produced maps that show the extent to which European ecosystems are exposed to more air pollutant depositions than they can tolerate in the long term without damage, i.e. where the critical load limits for acidification and eutrophication are exceeded.

This new data shows that the areas at risk are greater than previously assumed – the acidity critical loads are now exceeded in eight per cent of the ecosystems in the EU (7% in the whole of Europe). The area exposed to nitrogen overload now extends to 75 per cent of EU ecosystems (62% in Europe). See table and maps.

Following emission cuts over the last 40 years in the main acidifying air pollutants, especially sulphur dioxide (SO₂), the area of sensitive ecosystems at risk of acidification in Europe has now shrunk to less than 250,000 square kilometres (km2), nearly eight times smaller than it was in 1980.

Progress is however markedly slower for eutrophication, which is caused by excess nitrogen deposition resulting from emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ammonia (NH₃). Here the affected area has shrunk by less than 40 per cent over the same time period, and still covers 1.9 million km2.

Table : Area of ecosystems exposed to excess deposition of eutrophying and acidifying air pollutants in 2010 (km2).

Table : Area of ecosystems exposed to excess deposition of eutrophying and acidifying air pollutants in 2010 (km2).

It should be noted that the maps give a snapshot of deposition versus ability to resist at a given point in time – they do not really reflect the environmental situation right now.

Environmental monitoring, experiments and calculations show that there may be considerable time lags, and that the damage that has already been caused by excess air pollutant inputs will persist for decades, in some places even for centuries.

Clearly there is still a long way to go to actually achieve the long-term environmental objectives of the EU’s 7th Environmental Action Programme, one of which is that there should be no exceedance of the critical loads for acidification and eutrophication. The same objective is also enshrined in the CLRTAP Gothenburg Protocol.

The key legal instrument in the EU for cutting emissions of acidifying and eutrophying air pollutants is the National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) directive, which is currently being revised, and negotiations on new emission reduction targets up to 2030 are now ongoing between EU institutions, with the aim of reaching a final compromise by June 2016.

Christer Ågren
Source: Modelling and mapping of the impacts of atmospheric deposition of nitrogen and sulphur:
CCE Status Report 2015. By J. Slootweg, M. Posch, and J-P Hettelingh (eds.). RIVM Report
2015-0193, Coordination Centre for Effects, the Netherlands. Link:

World’s largest solar farm

Photo credit: Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power Park

Photo credit: Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power Park

China is helping Pakistan build the largest solar farm in the world. When complete in 2017, the solar farm could have 5.2 million photovoltaic cells, producing as much as 1,000 MW of electricity, enough to power about 320,000 households.

Analysis of the implementation on the Paris Agreement

An analysis on how to translate the Paris agreement into action in a German context.

Greenpeace Germany and consultancy New Climate Institute have completed a first brief analysis of how to translate the goals of the international climate regime as determined by the Paris Agreement into the German context.

“Firstly, emissions reduction scenarios on a sectoral level from existing literature sources are compared. Since the literature on this topic does not cover 1.5°C scenarios for Germany to a sufficient degree, global scenarios and the total CO₂ budget available for 1.5°C are taken as a basis. Conclusions are drawn from the comparison of different emissions reduction scenarios.

Key messages

To be compatible with the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement …
• … global CO₂ emissions from energy generation and use as well as from agriculture and forestry will need to decrease +to zero by 2035. This way, temperature increase is likely to be kept “well below 2°C” and aim towards 1.5°C without taking the risk of needing to remove CO₂ from the atmosphere on a large scale in the future. Simultaneously, a smaller budget of emissions remains for sectors where (according to most models) a reduction in emissions would be exceedingly demanding, as is the case for non-CO₂ emissions from agriculture through livestock and soil.
• … developed countries such as Germany would have to decrease greenhouse gas emissions to zero earlier than the global average, i.e. CO₂ emissions before 2035.
• … the share of renewables in the energy mix (electricity production, building heating and cooling, industry, and transport) should reach 100% in Germany before 2035. The provision of electricity entirely from renewable sources should be achieved before 2030. This assumes the agreed phaseout of nuclear energy and no use of CCS.
• … the lignite and hard coal phase-out from electricity production should be achieved by around 2025 in Germany.
• … avoidance of travel, modal shift and increase in share of cars without combustion engines, e.g. through the development of electric mobility, are necessary beyond current targets in Germany.
• … 5% of Germany’s existing buildings need to be renovated to nearly zero energy standards per year, in addition to 100% of new stock conforming to nearly zero energy standards.
• … energy efficiency and electrification in industry have to be enhanced, in addition to research and development.
• … emissions from agriculture and forestry need to eventually be reduced to nearly zero as well, even if a little later than energy-related emissions.

A large part of the CO₂ budget available to limit temperature increase to 2°C or 1.5°C has already been spent. In order to limit the global average temperature increase to the above-mentioned levels, the cumulative emissions over this century are the determining factor. If emissions are too high now,CO₂ could theoretically still be removed from the atmosphere at a later point in time. However, the technology that could enable this subsequent removal, i.e. the utilization of biomass in combination with carbon capture and storage (CCS), entails significant problems and risks. This brief analysis consequently assumes that the emission budget has to be reached without these “negative emission” technologies.”

Compiled and translated from German by Reinhold Pape

Tougher air pollution targets needed

Revision of EU’s key legal instrument for improving air quality – the NEC directive – is currently the subject of intense negotiations.

Starting in late February, representatives of the EU’s three legislative bodies (the Council, Parliament and Commission) have held a series of trialogue meetings over spring and early summer to negotiate a revised National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) directive with the aim of reaching a final compromise by June 2016.

While the Commission and the Parliament aim for an ambition level that would result in a 52 per cent reduction in premature deaths from air pollution between 2005 and 2030, the Council (i.e. the member states) argues for a significantly less ambitious target of 48 per cent. The latter would in effect result in an additional 16,000 annual premature deaths in 2030, on top of the more than a quarter of a million annual premature deaths that are expected to remain if the Commission’s proposal was to be implemented.

According to the environmental group European Environmental Bureau (EEB), approximately 130,000 EU citizens could die prematurely between 2016 and 2030 if the emission reduction targets for air pollutants are weakened in line with the Council’s position.

The Council’s 48-per-cent target was the outcome of mismanaged negotiations under the Luxembourg Presidency last year, when many member states got away with very unambitious emission reduction commitments (ERC). For example, Denmark, Bulgaria, Greece and Romania got away with weakening their ERCs for all five pollutants, and Italy and the UK managed to lower their national targets for four of the pollutants. (See table in AN 1/16, page 9.)

Now it is up to the Parliament and the Commission, hopefully with support from the Dutch Presidency, to push member states to accept more ambitious ERCs, especially for particulate matter (PM) and ammonia (NH₃) – pollutants that have particularly high adverse effects on human health. Ammonia is also the main culprit for ecosystem damage through eutrophication.

A possible compromise that would achieve a 50 per cent reduction in premature deaths has ben put forward by the Dutch Presidency to the member states. This would among other things simply that big member countries such as Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK, which are also responsible for large shares of the emissions, would need to accept slightly stricter ERCs, especially for PM and ammonia.

Another issue of debate is that the Parliament is also pushing for binding targets for 2025, compared to the Commission’s proposed indicative targets, while the Council only wants some sort of vague guiding figures for 2025. Having binding intermediary targets would obviously better ensure that countries really are on track to meet their 2030 ERCs.

When the Council agreed its position in December 2015, member states removed the ozone precursor methane completely from the directive. However, both the Commission and the Parliament want to keep it in, although a majority in the Parliament supported exclusion of the main source of methane emissions from agriculture, i.e. from livestock’s enteric fermentation, which in 2005 contributed more than a third of the EU’s total methane emissions. A compromise has been tabled that would reduce the EU’s overall methane ERC from 33 to 20 per cent, which equals the result of excluding enteric methane.

Other issues of contention include among others the five additional flexibilities introduced by the Council in order to make it easier for member states to comply; to what extent emission abatement measures listed in Annex III should be binding or just voluntary; the timing and extent of reporting and review; and public access to information and justice.

A fourth, possibly final, trialogue meeting on the revision of the NEC directive is due in early June.

Christer Ågren

Sea levels could rise 1.3 to 2 metres by 2100

New studies have been published concluding that sea levels could rise far more rapidly than expected in coming decades. The UN’s climate science body had predicted up to a metre of sea level rise this century. But a new study led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research for the first time, combines the two most important estimation methods for future sea level rise and yields a more robust risk range. Sea levels worldwide will likely rise by 50 to 130 centimetres by the end of this century if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced rapidly.

A second study provides the first global analysis of sea level data for the past 3,000 years. It confirms that during the past millennia the sea level has never risen nearly as fast as during the last century. Even if ambitious climate policy follows the 2015 Paris Agreement, sea levels are projected to increase by 20 to 60 centimetres by 2100.

According to a third study, published in the journal Nature, collapsing Antarctic ice sheets are expected to double sea-level rise to two metres by 2100, if carbon emissions
are not cut.

Previously, only the passive melting of Antarctic ice by warmer air and seawater was considered, but the new work added active processes, such as the disintegration of huge ice cliffs.

The Guardian quoted Prof Robert De- Conto, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who led the work: “this [doubling] could spell disaster for many low-lying cities”.

He said that if global warming was not halted, the rate of sea-level rise would change from millimetres per year to centimetres a year. “At that point it becomes about retreat [from cities], not engineering of defences.”

“Many coastal cities are growing fast as populations rise, and analysis by World Bank and OECD staff has shown that global flood damage could cost them $1 trillion a year by 2050 unless action is taken. The cities most at risk in richer nations include Miami, Boston and Nagoya, while cities in China, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Ivory Coast are among those most in danger in less wealthy countries.”

“The new research follows other recent studies warning of the possibility of ice sheet collapse in Antarctica and suggesting huge sea-level rises. But the new work suggests that major rises are possible within the lifetimes of today’s children, not over centuries.”

Compiled by Reinhold Pape from press releases.


How much do we need to cut emissions?

A few years ago, while evaluating the environmental improvements that are expected to result from the revised Gothenburg Protocol by 2020, scientists at the CCE made a rough estimate of what additional reductions in acidifying and eutrophying emissions are needed to achieve levels of depositions that no longer exceed the critical load limits.

This was done using the very simplified approach of assuming uniform (same percentage) gradual emission reductions for all European countries and for international shipping. The starting point was the emission levels projected for 2020, assuming full implementation of the revised Gothenburg Protocol.

For eutrophication it was shown that an additional 70 per cent reduction in total nitrogen emissions (nitrogen oxides and ammonia) would bring the exceedance of the critical loads for nutrient nitrogen close to zero. The total area at risk of eutrophication in Europe would still cover about two per cent, but the magnitude of exceedance in these areas would be quite low.

As regards acidification, exceedance of the critical loads approached zero at an additional 60 per cent combined reduction in emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and ammonia. The remaining area at risk in Europe would come down to less than one per cent.

No detailed analysis was made regarding the locations of the remaining areas at risk (e.g. their spread between countries) or what types of ecosystems (e.g. nature  protection areas) would still be exposed to excess deposition.

Source: CCE Status Report 2012, link:

Land is a crucially important sector to keep global warming below 1.5°C

A quarter of human induced greenhouse gas emissions comes from agriculture, forestry and other land use.

Climate Action Network (CAN) argues that land is a crucially important sector for ambitious action to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere below dangerous levels, in order to keep global warming below 1.5°C.

About one quarter of all human-induced emissions come from agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU), mainly from land use change, fertilizer use, livestock and  peatland degradation. The potential for both sequestration and emissions reductions in the AFOLU sector is thus large, but it must be ensured that AFOLU mitigation does not compromise adaptation, food security or other social and environmental safeguards.

Reducing emissions (for example, by reducing deforestation) and enhancing removals (for example, by afforestation or reforestation) are already important components of some countries’ emission reduction pledges and will no doubt continue to be so. It is therefore vital that all countries both report on and account for emissions and removals from AFOLU in a comparable and transparent way, especially those countries which intend to include emission reductions or increased removals from the sector as part of their emission reduction target.

Given the unique nature of this sector, its relation to food security, ecological integrity, and cultural identity must be recognized in climate agreements. CAN says that a process for developing principles and guidelines to ensure these values are protected and maintained must be mandated.

Principles and guidelines should ensure social protections; food security; security of indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ land tenure; gender equity; ecological integrity; and animal welfare.

Actions in the land sector, in addition to actions in other sectors, should prioritize the protection, maintenance and restoration of natural ecosystems, while respecting customary and sustainable land use systems and existing agricultural ecosystems.

Common accounting rules for the land sector are essential for assessing comparability of effort. Accounting should be both comprehensive and complete, so that nations “account for what the atmosphere sees” in terms of emissions and removals.

The basic principles should according to CAN be a land-based reporting system and that the base year should be historical, not projected. To ensure that climate policies affecting agriculture can include consideration of small-scale farmers, food security and indigenous peoples should be recognized.

CAN summarizes the main demands as follows: Comprehensiveness and completeness Parties should comprehensively report on and account for their emissions and removals from all sectors, including land use. All human-induced emissions contribute to climate change and removals help to mitigate it. Nations should account for “what the atmosphere sees” in terms of emissions and removals, when they occur. Parties’ reporting and accounting should be complete, meaning that it covers all significant sources and sinks, as well as all significant pools and gases for which methodologies are provided in the 2006 IPCC Guidelines or for which supplementary methodologies have been agreed by the UN. Completeness also means the full geographical coverage of the sources and sinks of a country.

Base year or period

The base year or period used for reporting and accounting for AFOLU should be consistent with a Party’s overall ADP contributions to facilitate comparability within a contribution, i.e., baseline periods should be the same for the AFOLU sector as others and be historical, not projected. Furthermore, the AFOLU base year/period should be measured using agreed methodologies to estimate the emissions, removals, and stocks of the sector. It may be advisable to use a base period rather than a base year, as studies conducted by CAN indicate that this would be more reliable for forestry and other land types.


The data sources, assumptions and methodologies used should be clearly explained, in order to facilitate the replication and assessment of information. The transparency of inventories and accounts is fundamental to the success of the process for the communication and consideration of information.


An inventory should be internally consistent for all reported years in all its elements across sectors, categories, pools and gases.

The same methodologies should be used for the base year or period and all subsequent years, and consistent data sets should be used to estimate emissions or removals.


Emission and removal estimates should be accurate in the sense that they are systematically neither over nor under true emissions or removals, and that uncertainties are reduced as far as practicable.

Appropriate methodologies should be used, in accordance with the 2006 IPCC Guidelines, to promote accuracy in inventories and accounts.

Compiled by Reinhold Pape. Source: CAN submissions to the UN. Link:

“We need clean air.”

This summer the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) will present a new report “Towards cleaner air”, an assessment of the current scientific knowledge on air pollution based on 35 years of research, monitoring and policy developments.

Some of the report’s key findings have been published in a brief summary for policymakers.

It makes for interesting reading. Despite some significant progress in reducing the emissions of many pollutants, it notes that problems still exist, and that additional action is urgently needed.

Each year, air pollution causes nearly half a million premature deaths in the EU. It is also the cause of allergies and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, which result in extra medication and hospitalisations as well as millions of lost working days.

But it is not only people that suffer from air pollution. Excess deposition of acidifying and eutrophying air pollutants damages nature and biodiversity.

Agricultural crops, forest trees and even man-made materials, including monuments and buildings of high cultural value, are all suffering.

Air pollution is transboundary in nature – it can be carried hundreds and even thousands of kilometres by winds in only a few days. Many cities have taken action to improve local air quality, for example by banning cars from city centres or improving public transport.

This is both necessary and good. But even in big cities a significant share of the pollution emanates from sources outside of the city, or even outside of the country.

This is why local and national measures have to be complemented by international action at European level, and – when it comes to dealing with ground-level ozone – even at the northern hemispheric level.

This is also why the EU has a National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) directive that is designed to make all member states contribute to improvements in air quality in a fair and cost-effective manner.

The current NEC directive dates back to 2001 and sets national emission caps for 2010. It is now subject to revision, with the aim of setting new national emission reduction targets up to the year 2030.

Despite all the negative impacts of air pollution and the fact that most member states are struggling with bad air quality, many national governments – including those of large countries such as the UK, France, Poland and Italy – refuse to accept the fair (and actually quite unambitious) targets of the original proposal.

In particular, they want to lower their national targets for ammonia reductions.

And they want to scrap the methane targets. As agriculture is responsible for 90 per cent of ammonia emissions and half of methane emissions, it is obvious that these positions are being pushed by organisations primarily representing the interests of industrial livestock farming.

Some member states are also seeking greater flexibility, which in this context is a euphemism for a greater right to pollute. Paradoxically, in most cases, the countries that argue for lower national emission reduction targets and greater flexibility are the same ones that are currently the subject of infraction measures by the Commission because they have failed to comply with the EU’s minimum air quality standards. In essence this means that they have failed to protect the health of their citizens.

What we need now is a new NEC directive with targets that ensure a high level of protection for health and the environment, resulting in reduced health bills, improved productivity, longer and healthier lives and a richer natural environment for the benefit of us all. We need clean air.

Christer Ågren