Clean air is an important prerequisite for good health and quality of life for citizens. As air quality declined markedly in the developed world in the 19th century and the correlation between air pollution and adverse health consequences has been better understood, national governments and more recently the EU have enacted legislation and policies to ensure that minimum levels of air cleanliness are maintained, thus making air quality a high priority for public administration bodies.
This environmental and public health problem can be addressed through a structured plan to improve air quality with regularly updated goals, both short-term and long-term, set in advance and going beyond the target and limit values set in the Air Quality Directive (Directive 2008/50/EC). The plan needs to encompass all aspects from a holistic perspective, which are:
- transport (car use, speed limits, public transport, etc.)
- industrial installations
- energy production
- type of heating systems in buildings
- energy efficiency of buildings
- land use planning.
To ensure that the expected results are achieved, it is essential to develop the plan in cooperation with the relevant sectoral authorities and stakeholders, and to be coordinated with higher-level public authorities and neighbouring municipalities. Moreover, the plan to improve air quality should consider aspects related to communication and dissemination to improve the level of acceptance and effectiveness of the actions to be implemented.
For more information about potential actions to include in the plan, read the following best practices:
- Improving the energy efficiency of public buildings
- Improving the energy efficiency of social housing
- Implementing district heating and/or district cooling networks
- Implementing on-site renewables and mini-combined heat and power (CHP) systems in public buildings and social housing
- Setting higher energy efficiency standards and renewable energy requirements in land use planning for newbuilds and buildings undergoing major renovations through local building regulations, urban planning and building permits
- Enacting a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan
- Fostering cycling and walking through cycling infrastructure, bike-sharing schemes and promotion of walking
- Implementing a large-scale car-sharing scheme
- Integrated ticketing for public transport
- Improving the uptake of electric vehicles in urban areas
- Fostering passenger intermodality
- Implementing a congestion charge
- Limiting free parking spaces in cities
- Implementation of logistic service centres