Air pollution is a very important environmental and social issue and, at the same time, it is a complex problem posing multiple challenges in terms of management and mitigation. Air pollutants are emitted from anthropogenic and natural sources; they may be either emitted directly or formed in the atmosphere; they have a number of impacts on health, ecosystems, the built environment and the climate; they may be transported or formed over long distances; and they may affect large areas. Effective action to reduce the impacts of air pollution requires a good understanding of its causes, how pollutants are transported and transformed in the atmosphere, and how they impact on humans, ecosystems, the climate, and subsequently society and the economy. Effective air-quality policies call for action and cooperation on global, European, national and local levels, which extends across most economic sectors and which engages the public. Holistic solutions involving technological development, structural changes, including the optimisation of infrastructures and urban planning, and behavioural changes must be found.
Objectives and coverage
This report presents an updated overview and analysis of air quality in Europe and is focused on the state in 2014 and the development over the past 15 years, from 2000 (or later, pending data availability) to 2014. The evaluation of the status of air quality is based on ambient air measurements, in conjunction with anthropogenic emissions and their trends. Parts of the assessment also rely on air-quality modelling. In addition, the report includes an overview of the latest findings and estimates of the effects of air pollution on health, and its impacts on ecosystems.
The report reviews progress towards meeting the requirements of the two Ambient Air Quality Directives presently in force (EU, 2004; EU, 2008) and the long-term objectives of achieving levels of air pollution that do not lead to unacceptable harm to human health and the environment, as presented in the latest two European Environment Action Plans (EAPs) (EU, 2002; EU, 2013).