In 2022, the city of Barcelona again failed to comply with the established legal annual limit for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a pollutant mainly associated with traffic, at a limit of 40 micrograms per square meter (µg/m3). is more. For its part, in Madrid, for the first time in 21 years, this maximum permissible limit has not been exceeded, thanks to favorable weather conditions (wind and rain in the last quarter). This is indicated by a study by Ecologistus en Axion whose reports are references in this area of administrative management.
With the provisional data provided by the Generalitat during the year 2022, after the respite given by the pandemic during the years 2020 and 2021, the Barcelona region would have once again failed to comply with the regulations.
Eixample station in Barcelona would have been the only station in the entire Spanish state that failed to comply with this legal limit last year, reaching 42 µg/m3, when the maximum allowed is 40 µg/m3, a value established in 2010. in. Barcelona thus accumulates more than a decade of non-compliance with the rules.
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In contrast, for the first time since systematic NO2 records are available, air pollution in the city of Madrid will not exceed the above annual limit value, but has been equalized with a concentration of 40 µg/m3 at Plaza Elliptica station, compared in 2020 and 2021 reached 41 µg/m3.
NO2 pollution in two main Spanish urban areas remains at very high levels, equal to or exceeding the current annual limit value. A few days ago, the European Court of Justice condemned the Kingdom of Spain for systematic and continuous violations since 2010 of the annual limit value of NO2.
Furthermore, NO2 levels in both groups double the new annual limit value proposed by the European Commission for 2030, which is 20 µg/m3, and quadruple the World Health Organization (WHO) annual recommendation, Which is set at 10 µg/m3.
Avoid EU Ban
The mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, has celebrated that the city has complied “for the first time” with the European Air Quality Directive, a fact he attributes to Madrid’s “comprehensive environmental strategy”, which includes ” All source pollution”. From all corners of the capital, and for the work and understanding of the people of Madrid.
The councilor commented that, if the same values had been maintained in 2018, the EU would have imposed “fines and sanctions”, but compliance with air quality standards is allowed by “a recent decision of the European High Court”. Union (CJUE)” does not have “huge consequences for the city of Madrid”.
“There is no station (for measuring air quality) in which the data has not improved as compared to 2018,” the councilor insisted.
Faced with the announcements of the Madrid City Council government, Juan Barcena from Ecologistos en Accion highlighted that the results for the Spanish capital are not the result of actions taken to improve air quality, but the weather conditions of the last quarter are due to year.
Bárcena sees it as unfair that these high NO2 values have been reached since they were established in 1999 (although they came into force in 2010), and that they have been there for more than two decades. “There was plenty of time to adjust to these demands, and they didn’t”, says Barcena to warn about new limits (20 micrograms for the year 2030) proposed by the European Commission. “These consequences today cannot be a license for inaction and everything to repeat itself, so that when the new rule comes into force, they fail to comply.”
According to the Institute for Global Health, air pollution in the cities of Barcelona and Madrid causes 6,000 premature deaths each year, half of which are caused mainly by the exhaust pipes of cars powered by fossil fuels and especially diesel. is attributed to the NO2 emitted. vehicle.
In this context, according to Ecologistus en Accion, the low-emission zones of Barcelona and Madrid are proving insufficient to effectively reduce air pollution, as it affects too few cars and in the case of Madrid Being confined in two very small areas of the city and being increasingly permissive.
“The objective of low emission zones should not be to accelerate the renewal of the car fleet, but to achieve a substantial reduction in the number of vehicles in circulation, thereby reducing air and noise pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, accidents in traffic and public space Abusive possession”, points to this organization.
In the opinion of Ecologistas en Accion, the city councils of Barcelona and Madrid need to heavily limit the motorized traffic that reaches and circulates daily through both cities in order to achieve a significant improvement in the quality of the air breathed by their 6.2 million inhabitants. and should be reduced immediately. In the recipe for achieving this, strengthening metropolitan public transport and supporting active pedestrian and cyclist mobility, at least within urban distances, have also been cited as a solution.
Despite not breaching the current annual limit value, most cities exceed both the new annual value for NO2 proposed by the European Commission and the WHO recommendation, so they should also implement effective traffic reduction measures.
The main Spanish city councils, which have decided to violate the legal obligation enshrined in the State Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition, to establish low-emission zones in their cities before 2023, to the detriment of the health of their neighbourhoods.