Green Week 2013 in Brussels
The first week of June 2013 was devoted to air quality in Brussels. The biggest annual conference on European environmental policy, Green Week, was held from June 4 to June 7 and offered an insight into developments of air quality improvements and fight against air pollution.
Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potocnik set the scene with his opening speech on cleaner air for all, when he addressed EU policies, summarized past achievements and outlined the challenges which are still ahead us.
The speakers at the conference focused on the EU air quality policy which is currently being reviewed and tried to identify ways and means to reach the overall EU air policy objective: to achieve levels of air pollution which are not causing any significant negative impact on human health.
Most importantly, the WHO presented on evidence on health effects of air pollution from the recent international project REVIHAAP, which aims at providing the EU and its stakeholders with evidence-based advice on the health aspect of air pollution. The session was moderated by Roberto Bertollini, who pointed out that there is enough evidence of harmful effects of air pollution on our health and an urgent action needs to be taken in order to improve the quality of life of EU citizens.
The following days offered presentations, discussions and satellite events devoted to air quality with the closing session named ‘How do we ensure Clean Air for All?’.
For more information, list of speakers and presentations go here.
How can you fight against air pollution?
At the Green Week conference 2013 EFA was represented by EU Policy Officer Roberta Savli who presented on how to empower the most vulnerable groups to fight against air pollution. The presentation was part of the session devoted to planetary boundaries in the context of air quality. The main aim of this session was to identify ways of engaging citizens in fight against air pollution and providing them with recommendations and best practices in order to ensure that their activities are effective and efficient.
In her speech, Savli pointed out negative effects air pollution has on human health and suggested actions to be taken in order to empower people to actively fight against it. Despite of some improvement in the air quality in Europe in recent years, according to the WHO ‘Burden of Disease’ study 2010, exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) caused over 430 000 premature deaths in 2010 and was also responsible for over 7 million lost years of healthy life.
It is also important to highlight that people are not equally affected by air pollution, vulnerable groups such as elderly, children, pregnant women and patients already suffering from diseases are even at a higher risk of experiencing adverse effect of bad air quality. It is thus extremely important to empower all citizens, and especially those most vulnerable, to be able to fight air pollution and avoid negative impact it has on their health.
Three types of changes are possible: structural changes, behavioral changes and regulatory changes. First, regulatory changes might include adoption of more ambitious emission reduction commitments, adoption of sector legislation to cut emissions from all major sources, enforcement of ambient air quality limit values and reduction of indoor air pollution.
Secondly, behavioral changes involve deploying other means of transport than using cars (cycling, walking, using public transport, car sharing); reduction of energy consumption at home, buying green and efficient, checking air pollution forecast and avoiding activities in the vicinity of busy roads, wearing breathing masks when necessary and getting more involved with citizens in Europe.
In order to achieve the goal, citizens and their advocates have to be able to deliver a clear message, inform effectively, voice their opinion unanimously and support grassroots campaigns.
Check the presentation here.
Clean air and healthy environment for children-European actions
EFA also attended a Green Week satellite event focused on indoor quality in schools. At the conference devoted to clean air and healthy environment for children developments in SINPHONIE and SEARCH II projects were presented together with preliminary results.
Both projects aim at measuring the quality of indoor air in schools and coming up with recommendations and concrete action in order to improve the environment where children spent more than 30 % of their time.
The main objectives and provisional results of SINPHONIE projects were presented as well as proposed guidelines for a healthy school environment in relation to indoor air quality and criteria for their implementation in the EU Member States.
Researchers involved in the SEARCH II project then presented on targeting indoor air quality in sustainable patterns, results and lessons learned from the project.