Review of the Gothenburg Protocol. Report of the Task Force on Integrated Assessment Modelling and the Centre for Integrated Assessment Modelling

31-12-2007 | Publication

In the last 25 years, air pollution in Europe has been substantially reduced. However, current reduction plans are insufficient to fully protect ecosystems and human health. These are the main conclusions of the review of the Gothenburg Protocol by the Task Force Integrated Assessment Modelling, led by Rob Maas (MNP). With the current legislation, health risks due to exposure to particulate matter and ozone will still remain and, almost everywhere in Europe, biodiversity will decrease further due to high levels of nitrogen deposition.

Transboundary air pollution still too high

Large abatement potential in Eastern Europe

The Task Force Integrated Assessment Modelling concludes that, of all the countries which ratified the 1999 Gothenburg Protocol, most will meet their obligations. Sulphur emissions have been reduced even further than agreed, because of a reduction in the use of coal. Resulting from this, the acidification of forests and lakes has halted in large parts of Europe. Reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions from traffic, has been somewhat slower than originally expected. In the Protocol, only modest ammonia emission reductions were agreed upon. This means that almost everywhere in Europe a further accumulation of nitrogen will occur. In turn, this leads to extinction of rare plant species and a further dominance of nettle, algae and grasses. For large parts of Europe, human exposure to particulate matter and ozone will remain higher than recommended by the World Health Organization. In the Benelux, the Po-area, Russia and the Ukraine, the health risks will remain higher than for the rest of Europe. 

The East European countries that did not ratify the Protocol, are expected to see an increase in air pollution in the coming years. Because the potential of cost-effective abatement measures is large, the Task Force recommends focusing policy attention to countries like Russia and the Ukraine. Abatement of emissions from shipping and ambitious climate policy measures, offers possibilities to reduce air pollution in EU countries at relatively low costs. The Task Force warns against the negative effects of biomass and biodiesel on air quality.