Malta maintains positive decline in air pollution

Malta is maintaining the trend following the 50% drop in air pollution in 2020, TheJournal.mt is informed.

Following the first ‘semi-lockdown’ in Malta last year, air pollution decreased staggeringly and rapidly — and although Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels went back up once cars were back on the streets in summer, the amount of air pollution registered has not gone back to original levels.

As confirmed by national air quality data, road transport remains the major source of air pollution in Malta.

This is particularly the case for NO2. In 2019, 20 streets exceeded the annual limit value for NO2, most of them being in the inner harbour area as a result of high traffic influx.

In 2020, due to COVID-19 related measures, the number of streets exceeding the limit value went down to 8. NO2 levels in traffic sites decreased by an average of 50%.

 “In 2020, due to COVID-19 related measures, the number of streets exceeding the NO2 limit value went down to 8. NO2 levels in traffic sites decreased by an average of 50%.”

Following the implementation of a number of measures such as the reform in the power generation sector, and the use of cleaner fuel in various sectors, Malta is compliant with most pollutants regulated by Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe, with the exception of particulate matter of size 10 micrometres (fine dust, commonly known as PM10). Apart from road transport, PM10 is also generated from other sources such as shipping, agriculture, and natural sources namely Sahara dust and sea salt.

While air quality has improved in the past decades, the level of air pollutants in Europe still exceeds standards and air pollution still causes 7 million premature deaths in the world per year.

The European Commission is working on a process of revision of Directive 2008/50/EC, with the aim of making limit values stricter, aligning them with WHO guidelines – which are stricter than the current EU thresholds.

Last year, Malta also published and reported its national air pollution control programme (NAPCP), which targets longer term national emissions – i.e. looking up to 2030 – rather than short term ambient air quality thresholds. The NAPCP includes policy measures for air pollutant emissions reduction. It clearly outlines the projected non-compliance with the 2030 emission ceiling for nitrogen oxides, therefore stricter measures need to be implemented.

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