EXCLUSIVE: Air pollution impacts good argument to achieve global CO2 deal
The impact of air pollution on human health and ecosystems can be a convincing argument to drive global decarbonisation and to lower CO2 emissions, says John van Aardenne.
This is because in many cases air pollutants and greenhouse gases are released by the same emission sources such as fossil fuel combustion in industry, transport and by residential combustion.
Air and climate change mitigation project manager for the European Environment Agency (EEA), John Van Aardenne, told edie: "If you talk about CO2, then it's clear that we need a global deal because it doesn't matter if Europe, for example, is reducing emissions, if other countries or continents are showing increases. Air pollution is more a regional problem and further reductions are needed".
He added that although success has been achieved in reducing air pollutant emissions in Europe, new insights in safe levels of air pollutant concentrations such particulate matter (for example from WHO), require that further efforts are needed for emission reductions.
"Industry must also improve, especially transport emissions, which should come down further because it's a big problem for air quality in cities. But also residential energy use, which is another major concern, in particular pm emissions from residential wood combustion" he added.
"Achieving emission reductions is a difficult story due to the costs involved. I think if you take into account the additional benefits of including the air pollutants (e.g. less health costs), you might make a strong case," he says.
"I would say that when air pollution from fossil fuel combustion is killing people, there is nothing wrong in encouraging the reduction of CO2, that way you're killing two birds with one stone".
In his opening speech at the beginning of Green Week yesterday, European Commissioner for Environment, Janez Potocnik, echoed Aardenne's comments, saying that humans have never protected environmental interests, only "our own interests".
Commenting on whether a global deal would be reached, Aardenne said: "It is a slow process. I've been studying this for some time and there is a delay because of the debate on whether there should be a global deal on every country or whether it should be separated from developing countries. I'm not optimistic it will happen any time soon but I hope that it is possible".