Forty years of improvements in European air quality: regional policy-industry interactions with global impacts
Abstract. The EDGARv4.3.1 (Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research) global anthropogenic emissions inventory of gaseous (SO2, NOx, CO, non-methane volatile organic compounds and NH3) and particulate (PM10, PM2.5, black and organic carbon) air pollutants for the period 1970–2010 is used to develop retrospective air pollution emissions scenarios to quantify the roles and contributions of changes in energy consumption and efficiency, technology progress and end-of-pipe emission reduction measures and their resulting impact on health and crop yields at European and global scale. The reference EDGARv4.3.1 emissions include observed and reported changes in activity data, fuel consumption and air pollution abatement technologies over the past 4 decades, combined with Tier 1 and region-specific Tier 2 emission factors. Two further retrospective scenarios assess the interplay of policy and industry. The highest emission STAG_TECH scenario assesses the impact of the technology and end-of-pipe reduction measures in the European Union, by considering historical fuel consumption, along with a stagnation of technology with constant emission factors since 1970, and assuming no further abatement measures and improvement imposed by European emission standards. The lowest emission STAG_ENERGY scenario evaluates the impact of increased fuel consumption by considering unchanged energy consumption since the year 1970, but assuming the technological development, end-of-pipe reductions, fuel mix and energy efficiency of 2010. Our scenario analysis focuses on the three most important and most regulated sectors (power generation, manufacturing industry and road transport), which are subject to multi-pollutant European Union Air Quality regulations. Stagnation of technology and air pollution reduction measures at 1970 levels would have led to 129 % (or factor 2.3) higher SO2, 71 % higher NOx and 69 % higher PM2.5 emissions in Europe (EU27), demonstrating the large role that technology has played in reducing emissions in 2010. However, stagnation of energy consumption at 1970 levels, but with 2010 fuel mix and energy efficiency, and assuming current (year 2010) technology and emission control standards, would have lowered today's NOx emissions by ca. 38 %, SO2 by 50 % and PM2.5 by 12 % in Europe. A reduced-form chemical transport model is applied to calculate regional and global levels of aerosol and ozone concentrations and to assess the associated impact of air quality improvements on human health and crop yield loss, showing substantial impacts of EU technologies and standards inside as well as outside Europe. We assess that the interplay of policy and technological advance in Europe had substantial benefits in Europe, but also led to an important improvement of particulate matter air quality in other parts of the world.