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Pollution news

Reducing greenhouse gases from traffic
The European Commission wants your views on measures that can cut CO2 emissions from road vehicles. The results of the public consultation will feed into the Commission’s decision-making on EU regulations for cars, vans and heavy-duty vehicles. In “A Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050”, the commission estimates that the emissions from the transport sector will need to drop by 50-70 per cent by 2050. The consultation is open until 9 December 2011.

The Hong Kong EPD is offering a prize for anyone who can find a similar consultation on its website.

Road transport pollution control
In light of rapid developments in automotive technology, persistent air quality problems in urban areas, and the experience gained in implementing the existing legislation, the European Commission on 5 September launched a public consultation on measures to reduce emissions from the road transport sector. Among the measures considered are mandatory fuel consumption meters in all new cars and the mandatory installation of gear shift indicators (GSI) in light-duty vehicles. These and other measures related to emissions from motor vehicles are open for public consultation until 28 October 2011

Review of EU air quality
On 6 June, the European Commission officially launched its 2011-2013 review of air quality legislation. Updates of key legislation such as the National Emission Ceilings (NEC) Directive and the Ambient Air Quality Directive will be discussed, together with linkages to policies on climate, transport and agriculture. The Commission invites member states, industry, NGOs and the wider public to express their views on how to improve Europe’s air legislation.

Three written consultations were launched in June 2011: one for the members of a newly established expert group, one for the wider public, and a third one for air quality professionals. The consultation is open until 15 October 2011.

Particle pollution killing people
In many cities air pollution is reaching levels that threaten people’s health according to a new compilation of air quality data by the World Health Organization (WHO). The information includes data from nearly 1100 cities across 91 countries, including capital cities and cities with more than 100,000 residents.

WHO estimates that more than two million people die every year from breathing in tiny particles present in indoor and outdoor air pollution. These tiny particles can cause heart disease, lung cancer, asthma, and acute lower respiratory infections. The WHO air quality guideline for PM10 is 20 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3) as an annual average, but the data released today shows that the average PM10 level in some cities has reached up to 300 µg/m3.

Average PM10 levels in European cities range between 29 and 42 µg/m3, the data show. This compares with a world average of 71 µg/m3. The highest average PM10 levels are in the eastern Mediterranean region with a range of 137-142 µg/m3, followed by Southeast Asia.

For 2008, the estimated mortality attributable to outdoor air pollution in cities amounts to 1.34 million premature deaths. If the WHO guidelines had been universally met, an estimated 1.09 million deaths could have been prevented in 2008.

“Local actions, national policies and international agreements are all needed to curb pollution and reduce its widespread health effects,” said Dr Michal Krzyzanowski, Head of the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health. “Data from air quality monitoring that is released today, identify regions where action is most needed and allows us to assess the effectiveness of implemented policies and actions.”

Sources: WHO press release 26 September 2011, and ENDS Europe Daily, 27 September 2011

Air pollution from US power plants to be cut
The new Cross-State Air Pollution Rule by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) replaces and strengthens the 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR). By 2014, this rule and other state and EPA actions are expected to reduce SO2 emissions by 73 per cent from 2005 levels, and NOx emissions by 54 per cent.

According to the EPA, the new rule, which affects 27 states in the eastern half of the country, will reduce smog and soot pollution in communities that are home to 240 million Americans, preventing up to 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 19,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and 1.8 million sick days a year beginning in 2014, thus achieving up to US$280 billion in annual health benefits. The benefits far outweigh the US$800 million projected to be spent annually on this rule in 2014 and the roughly US$1.6 billion per year in capital investments already underway as a result of CAIR.

The rule will level the playing field for power plants that are already controlling air pollutant emissions, by requiring more facilities to do the same.

Source: US EPA, 7 July 2011

Tougher US car fuel efficiency standard
The Obama administration and 13 automakers agreed in July to boost the fuel economy of cars and light-duty trucks sold in the United States to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The new agreement more than doubles the current Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, Standard of 24.1 miles per gallon. Achieving the fuel efficiency goals is expected to save American drivers US$1.7 trillion dollars in fuel costs, and by 2025 result in an average fuel saving of over US$8,000 per vehicle. The new standards are expected to result in savings of 12 billion barrels of oil in total.

The standards also curb carbon pollution, requiring performance equivalent to 163 grams per mile of CO2. The administration says the standards will cut more than six billion metric tons of greenhouse gas over the life of the programme.

Source: Environmental News Service, 2 August 2011
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Fuel efficiency rule for US heavy duty trucks
The first national fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks and buses in the United States were announced on 9 August, covering vehicles made between 2014 and 2018. Heavy-duty vehicles account for 17 per cent of transportation oil use and 12 per cent of all US oil consumption. Nearly six per cent of all US greenhouse gas emissions and 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector in 2007 were produced by heavy-duty vehicles.
The businesses that operate and own these commercial vehicles are expected to save some US$50 billion in fuel costs and more than 500 million barrels of oil over the life of the programme. Greenhouse gas emissions are expected to be cut by 270 million metric tons.

Source: Environmental News Service, 9 August 2011
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