Spotlight Activity: New Air Pollution Regulations
Air quality in Italy becomes a hot topic every winter when many cities exceed the legal limit for air pollutants. Tens of thousands of deaths are directly correlated to poor air quality in Italy alone.
Although emissions of pollutants have been decreasing over the last few years, the concentration of particulate matter (PM 10), fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) and ozone (O3) persists at alarmingly high levels throughout the country. This is possible because, other than emissions alone, factors such as chemical reactions of pollutants and weather effects play a fundamental role in determining concentration levels of pollutants such as PM10, O3, NO2. Road transportation and wood combustion for residential heating are the top two sectors responsible for high emissions.
In 2010 the Italian government established that air quality management and monitoring falls in the competency of the country’s Regions (d.lgs. 10-155). Many regions had already produced Local Action Plans with regard to air quality since 2000. In fact, 16 Regions out of 20 had air quality legislation by 2010.
Nonetheless, Italy received infringement procedures by the EU in 2009, 2012, 2014, and 2015 for systematically breaching dangerous concentration levels of PM10 and NO2. In 2013. Over 60% of the Italian population was exposed to PM10 concentrations over the daily limit value (μg/m3 on more than 35 days in a year), with the most critical conditions being experienced in northern Italy.
After the menace of sanctions by the EU, on February 22nd the Italian government approved a legislative decree with the objective of improving air quality to protect human health. The legislation updates the legislative decree of 2004 by regulating additional pollutants such as PM 2.5 and ammonia, and coordinating efforts occurring at different levels. The law is a first step towards achieving the new 2020 and 2030 targets. However, it is unclear whether the latest policy will bring swift, effective, and coordinated measures.
Status: Falling Behind
Clearly, Italy is lagging behind in terms of air quality issues for particulate matters and nitrogen oxide pollutants. Without coordinated and effective action, the country won’t be able to stay below the mandated levels of concentration.
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The Ministry of the Environment, Division for Pollution
The Ministry of Transportation
The Ministry for Health
To read more about historical concentrations of pollutants from 1990 to 2015 read ISPRA’s report (English)
To learn more about the national plan to monitor and control air quality (Italian)
To learn more about the interplay of European, national, and local air quality legislation (Italian)
European Commission report on Italy’s state of the environment