The human toll for poor air quality is worse than for road traffic accidents, with air pollution responsible for more than 400,000 premature deaths in the EU each year. (Source: European Environment Agency – EEA). Read on to find out what France is doing about it.
Europeans do enjoy cleaner water and air and less waste is sent to landfill sights but, according to the latest EEA’s five-yearly report ‘The European Environment – state and outlook 2015 (SOER 2015), Europe remains a long way from achieving the objective of ‘living well within the limits of the planet’ by 2050, as set out in the 7th Environment Action Programme.
Each Member State of the EU has individual air pollutant emission limits or ‘ceilings’, which they are not supposed to exceed or break. The limits are set for the most common and harmful chemicals – to humans and the environment – including sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), ammonia (NH3) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC).
However, ten Member States did exceed at least one limit, according to the latest data collected in 2013 by the EEA, and Germany exceeded three of the four limits – the only country to do so.
Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland and Luxembourg – exceeded their NOx emission ceilings in all years from 2010-2013.
In 2013, Germany and France reported the highest excess of NOx limits with 218 kilotonnes and 180 kilotonnes, respectively. In percentage terms, Luxembourg (41%) and Austria (32%) exceeded their NOx emission ceilings by the greatest amount in 2013.
Ammonia (NH3) levels were also breached by Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Netherlands and Spain for four years running (2010-2013). Sulphur ceilings were not exceeded by any Member States.
What’s producing so much nitrogen oxide?
Emissions from road transport is the biggest reason for the increasing NOx levels. The increase in the number of diesel-engine cars is partly to blame (diesel engines produce more NOx than petrol engines) but also because actual engines produce more emissions than the laboratory simulators used to create the controls.
Reducing air pollution in France
In an effort to control car emissions, the French government will be introducing a new car control scheme in 2016. Every car will carry a colour-coded sticker numbered 1 to 6, classifying the car according to age of the car and emissions of polluting gases and particles.
The colour coding will be part of a scheme called Crit’Air. The idea is to reward owners of cars that do not pollute rather than penalise those with cars that do pollute.
Owners of low or non-polluting cars will:
- Have access to favourable parking arrangement
- Be given privileged driving conditions
- Will be allowed to drive in restricted traffic zones
The certificate and sticker will go into operation on 1 January, 2016. It will be available online and will be free for the first six months (after that there will be a €5 fee). More details will be made available towards the end of 2015.
A similar scheme to the Crit’Air sticker scheme is already in operation in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic.