|PM10 emissions from road transport in Paris. Click to enlarge.|
New online maps published by the European Commission and the European Environment Agency, in close cooperation with the Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES) of the Joint Research Centre, allow citizens to pinpoint the main diffuse sources of air pollution, such as transport and aviation.
The new set of 32 maps allows Europeans to see on a scale of 5 km by 5 km where pollutants are released. They include details of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx), carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), ammonia (NH3) and particulate matter (PM10). It complements existing data on emissions from individual industrial plants from the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR).
|NOx emissions from road transport. Click to enlarge.|
The E-PRTR, launched in 2009 to improve access to environmental information, contains data reported by individual industrial facilities (point sources) and, as of now, information on emissions from road transport, shipping, aviation, heating of buildings, agriculture and small businesses (diffuse sources).
Diffuse sources of pollution are widespread and/or concentrated in highly populated areas. A large number of many tiny emissions from houses and vehicles represent collectively a large, diffuse source of pollution, in particular in cities.
While air quality data are publicly available from both national and European data providers, these data do not provide information concerning the various sources of pollution. The new maps raise awareness about local releases of air pollutants, and allow citizens to zoom in on their own neighborhood. In addition, air quality experts can use the data for modelling, thereby assessing the environmental consequences of local emissions.
The spatial distribution maps reveal, for example, large hotspots for emissions of ammonia (NH3) from agriculture in the Po Valley in Italy, in Brittany in France, and the Benelux countries. High levels of ammonia emissions harm the environment by contributing to soil and freshwater acidification and eutrophication.
They also show the extent to which NOx and PM10 emissions from road transport occur in large urban areas and along the main road networks. In cities road transport in particular contributes significantly to the levels of PM10 in the air.
Background. In 2003, parties to the Aarhus Convention—including the EU—adopted the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR), which entered into force on 8 October 2009. The EU has gone beyond the PRTR Protocol by requiring Member States to report information on an additional five pollutants to the 85 substances listed, and imposing more stringent reporting thresholds for another six.
Information in the E-PRTR is updated in May each year. In addition to the 27 Member States of the European Union, it also includes data from Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Serbia started reporting to the E-PRTR in 2011. The website now includes the new information on diffuse source releases into air for 2008 covering key pollutants. Further information on diffuse source releases into water and soil will be included in coming years.