ETC/ATNI Report 2/2020: Public awareness and efforts to improve air quality in Europe

The European Union’s clean air policies work along several lines. The European Union regulates air pollutant emissions from a multitude of sources, sets standards for concentrations of selected harmful substances in ambient air, and sets the obligation of providing information to the public. In this report, we focus on how information on air quality is provided to and perceived by the public and look at actions the cities and the civil society takes towards improvements of the quality of air. Public awareness and understanding have a central role.

16 Apr 2021

Prepared by:

Sonja Grossberndt (NILU), Alena Bartonova (NILU), Alberto González Ortiz (EEA)

Air pollution is the single largest environmental risk to the health of the Europeans and is receiving increasing attention in the public space. It is comprehensively regulated in the EU, addressing air pollutants concentrations as well as emissions from numerous sources. Authorities in the Member States are obliged to take actions to improve air quality where legal standards are exceeded and to maintain it where it is good. The legislation requires also for the authorities to inform the public.

In some cases, especially at local level, authorities are struggling to implement measures to improve air quality, for instance due to public opposition. In other cases, citizens are taking action with the aim of pushing the authorities to improve air quality.

This report reflects on what air quality information authorities provide to the public and what actions civil society takes towards improvements of air quality in Europe. It also looks at how the public perceives the provided information by the authorities and at the role of public awareness and understanding.