Acid rain still damaging UK ecosystems

Acid rain is still damaging the UK environment, according to the UK Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions as it launched a new information booklet on the problem.

Acid rain continues to threaten Sites of Special Scientific Interest and other precious habitats. The UK Government is committed to a 80% reduction in its emissions of sulphur dioxide (one of the main sources of acid rain) by 2010 on a 1980 baseline to help tackle acid rain.

The Government is also helping to develop international agreements in both the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) and the European Community.

The DETR booklet, which explains the problem of acid rain, is intended for the general public, in particular interested non-experts: e.g. policy formers in government, pressure groups and industry, the media and those in education.

Acidification is caused mainly by emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and ammonia. Sulphur dioxide arises mainly from power stations (67%) and industrial sources (22%). Nitrogen oxides arise mostly from vehicles (46%) and power stations (22%).

Whereas in the past, acidification was perceived as primarily a problem in Scandinavia, large areas of the UK are also at risk from pollution originating both in the UK and from further afield.

Several international Protocols have been agreed under the auspices of United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) to stabilise or reduce acid emissions.

These Protocols have helped to alleviate the problem, but more needs to be done to help protect the most sensitive parts of the environment. Negotiations are in progress for a new Protocol under UNECE to further address the problems of acidification, eutrophication and low level ozone. This will set emissions ceilings for 2010 for the main pollutants causing these problems. The aim is to finalise the negotiations during this year.

Within the European Community, the Commission is well advanced in preparing a proposed National Emissions Ceilings Directive as part of its Acidification Strategy which will set ceilings for the same pollutants for Member States.

The UK Government views international agreements to curb acid rain as the only effective way to control the problem as the pollutants can travel for many hundreds of kilometres from their point of emission before being deposited.

Copies of the DETR booklet can be obtained from: Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, DETR Free Literature, PO Box No 236, Wetherby, L23 7NB

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