The European Environment Agency’s (EEA) ‘Air quality in Europe – 2020 report’ published yesterday (Monday November 23) shows that better air quality has led to a significant reduction of premature deaths over the past decade in Europe.

However, the latest official data shows that almost all Europeans still suffer from air pollution, leading to about 400,000 premature deaths across the continent.

EU, national and local policies and emission cuts in key sectors have improved air quality across Europe, the EEA report shows.

The new EEA analysis is based on the latest official air quality data from more than 4 000 monitoring stations across Europe in 2018.

Improved air quality

European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevicius said:

“It is good news that air quality is improving thanks to the environmental and climate policies that we have been implementing. But we can’t ignore the downside – the number of premature deaths in Europe due to air pollution is still far too high.

With the European Green Deal we have set ourselves an ambition of reducing all kinds of pollution to zero.

“If we are to succeed and fully protect people’s health and the environment, we need to cut air pollution further and align our air quality standards more closely with the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO). We will look at this in our upcoming action plan,” he said.

The EEA report notes that there remains a gap between the EU’s legal air quality limits and WHO guidelines, an issue that the European Commission seeks to address with a revision of the EU standards under the Zero Pollution Action Plan, part of the European Green Deal.

Source: EEA

The EEA report also contains an overview of the links between the Covid-19 pandemic and air quality.

A more detailed assessment of provisional EEA data for 2020 and supporting modelling by the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS), confirms earlier assessments showing up to 60% reductions of certain air pollutants in many European countries where lockdown measures were implemented last spring.