Where in Europe is air quality the worst? Why do some European countries struggle with lowering emissions of toxic gases and particulate matter, while others don’t? Check out our air quality guide.
The growing number of initiatives that facilitate the green energy transition in Europe can raise optimism. In fact, there are European countries that have bitten the bullet and decided to reduce air pollution levels to an absolute minimum. Which ones are the leaders in lowering pollution levels? Who still has a long way ahead? We will try to answer these questions below.
It’s no mystery that the presence of particular matter and toxic gases is impossible to avoid in urban areas with traffic and industrial activity. That doesn’t mean that reducing the concentration of polluting particles in the air to WHO norms isn’t possible.
Scandinavian countries, in particular Finland and Estonia, serve as an example. Decisions like switching to electric-fueled means of transport, making public transportation more accessible, and obtaining energy from renewable sources have led to a successful transformation. It is worth taking into account that these countries have never been industrial capitals. Also, the percentage of urban areas on their territory is relatively low compared to Poland for example. The same goes for Norway, which has one of the best quality indexes in Europe.
A green transformation requires excellent coordination and strict regulations, but also significant investment. It’s more complicated in regions where the exportation of coal has been an economic pillar for decades. Switching to renewables and filling the gap the coal industry leaves requires both time and money. That is the main reason why many European countries haven’t won the battle with smog yet.
These countries are located mainly in Central-Eastern Europe. Poland and Bulgaria are leaders when it comes to air pollution rankings. In some regions of Slovakia and the Czech Republic, the air is far from being healthy. The problem of air pollution is present mainly in urban and industrial areas, and the main culprits are coal-burning and heavy industry. Note that in Eastern Bloc countries, recognition of air pollution as a problem came much later than in Western parts of the continent. That also explains why smog is so common in these countries – preventive measures were introduced much later than in France or Germany for example.
In Poland, the energy transformation has already started. Even though the main aim is to reduce CO2 emissions that fuel climate change, a side effect has been the improvement of air quality. What else can be done? Many European cities, like London and Paris, limit access to their central zones for vehicles with petrol engines. Investment in the development of public transport is another way to improve air quality.
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