Time for the EU to move to active management of air quality

Air quality
John Liljelund
John Liljelund
Head of Air Quality
Published: Nov 28, 2019
Environmental and Public Health Protection
Weather & Environment

Problems related to air quality are gaining increased media attention. Whether it’s about Delhi or Shenzhen, news about historically severe levels of air pollution are becoming more and more common. We also learn more about both direct and indirect consequences, related to issues as diverse as respiratory diseases and learning ability. 

But air quality is also a challenge for Europe. The European Environment Agency recently estimated that almost all Europeans living in cities are still exposed to air pollution levels that exceed the health-based air quality guidelines set by the World Health Organisation (WHO). And that despite significant improvements, air pollution is estimated to cause more than 400,000 premature deaths every year in Europe.

This year, the EU Commission has been reviewing the EU rules for controlling air quality to see whether the current framework still is fit for purpose. The results of this exercise should be published any day now. We at Vaisala believe that the EU should – and could – do more to combat air pollution and the problems it causes. And the good news is that new technologies also make combatting air pollution easier than it was ten years ago when the current air quality directives were adopted. 

The key is to use the new technologies to progress from passive monitoring towards active management of air quality. At the moment, the role of measurement is seen mainly in relation to verification. Member States of the European Union monitor and report on the air quality situation in their own country. If they do not reach the targets set by the EU, they face consequences. This is of course important.

European Union citizens are interested in the environment and want to actively contribute to good solutions. Countries, cities, and companies all wish to make sustainable choices. These need to be based on accurate and timely information, which is easily accessible, helping people to make the right decisions at the right time. And this is where a more active approach comes in.

Vaisala is a world leader in providing environmental measurement solutions. Our high-quality and light air quality monitoring systems can be installed nearly everywhere, and they provide reliable data for modelling in a cost-efficient manner. The data can be used to power modern modelling tools that can provide air quality data and forecasts at a city block level resolution. On the basis of this information, decision-makers, companies, and citizens can all identify problem areas accurately and target measures where they matter the most – whether it’s about deciding the location of a new kindergarten or choosing the route you take to work. So we can all be part of the effort ensuring clean air for all. 

It’s therefore no surprise that we hope to see more pervasive measurements and new modelling tools playing an active role in the future EU framework for controlling air quality. All Member States should be encouraged to use these new approaches innovatively to enable Europeans to make an active choice for cleaner air and healthier environment every day. The same practices will help the EU reach more ambitious goals together also for issues related to climate and the environment.  

We at Vaisala are happy to share our insight and know-how for a cleaner environment in the EU – and worldwide. Because the will to act is there. Let’s use it for a better world. 

Vaisala participates in the EU Clean Air Forum in Bratislava on November 28-29. If you wish to hear more about our solutions, please contact [email protected] 

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