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The European environment – state and outlook 2010

The European environment – state and outlook 2010

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Air pollution - Outlook to 2020 (SOER 2010)

Scenarios for annual average ozone and PM2,5 concentration and average daily PM10 concentration for the Flemish Region

Key message

Climate change may predominantly or completely nullify the positive effects of the expected reductions of emissions in ozone and particulate matter air pollution

The Environmental Outlook 2030 for Flanders investigates how the quality of the environment might develop in Flanders and what impact policy could have on this. The future developments have been depicted using three policy scenarios with increasing levels of ambition:

  • The reference scenario investigates how far the current environmental policy reaches.

  • The Europe scenario investigates what may be required to realise the European ambitions concerning climate change, air quality and water quality in the medium term.

  • The visionary scenario investigates how the environment may be safeguarded for present and future generations.

In the reference scenario, the annual average ozone concentration shows a gradual, but significant, rising trend. This is partly due to the increase in the background concentration due to long-distance transport of ozone to Europe, but primarily due to a decreased ozone breakdown due to the expected NOx-reduction of emissions. The annual ozone excess will fall because the ozone peaks decrease but not enough to achieve the long-term European target. In 2030, 15 % of the population will still be exposed to average daily PM10-concentrations greater than 50 µg/m3 for more than 35 days. Furthermore, unfavourable meteorological conditions for air pollution will occur more frequently due to climate change. 

In the Europe scenario, the annual average ozone concentration will increase more than in the reference scenario, up to 54 µg/m3 in 2030. The lower NO-concentration (as a result of the expected Flemish and European NOx-emission reductions) ensures that less ozone is broken down. But also the increasing background concentrations, among others due to increased emissions in China and India, ensure that the ozone-concentration remains high. Due to a lack of threshold values, lower ‘everyday’ ozone concentrations are also causing adverse health effects. However, the annual ozone excess (ozone peak concentrations) shows a significant drop by 37 % from 2007 to 2030. But with drier and warmer weather in the future, for instance as a result of climate change, the positive effect of the decreases in emissions on the ozone peak concentrations will predominantly disappear. The annual average PM2.5 concentration will probably reach the indicative limit of 20 µg/m2 in 2020. The target for the daily average PM10 concentration, i.e. a maximum of 35 days higher than 50 µg/m3, may only be achieved with local measures, such as low emission zones in cities and industrial areas.