Air quality has improved significantly in most European countries since an international convention on long-range transboundary air pollution was adopted in 1979. This is the finding of a major policy review published by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE), under whose auspices the convention was prepared. The convention and its seven protocols have "forced the countries that have signed up to them to make sweeping cuts in air pollution and also put political pressure on non-parties to keep their emissions down as well," the UN/ECE says, adding that it is optimistic about further improvements when a new protocol aimed at tackling acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone is adopted in Gothenburg next month (ENDS Daily 2 September). The review states that sulphur emissions in Europe have halved since 1980, with Austria, Finland and Sweden reporting 1996 levels that were less one fifth of those on signing (see table below). Iceland and Hungary, however, have both increased emissions by more than one-third over this period. The improvement has been much less marked for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, however, with emissions down by 16% over Europe as a whole. France, Ireland, Italy and Spain have failed to cut emissions, despite being parties to this protocol. Emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and ammonia have dropped by 20% and 18% respectively, the review adds, although Italy, Spain and Norway have failed to curb VOC emissions at all.
UN/ECE, tel: +41 22 917 2354. References: Home page of the convention on long-range transboundary air pollution.
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