ERA defends air quality targets: 'air quality has improved'

 Environment and Resources Authority argues that air quality had improved in recent years “both in tonnes of pollutant emissions per year and in ambient air quality concentrations, due to the overall reform of the power generation sector.”

ERA says that the major source of air pollution in urban areas is road traffic
ERA says that the major source of air pollution in urban areas is road traffic

The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) has reacted to Alternattiva Demokratika’s (AD) criticism of what the latter called weak emission targets, arguing that, in fact, its work to reduce this source of pollution was bearing fruit.

AD had accused the ERA and the Ministry for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change of being “unready to take the measures necessary to reduce air pollution”.

“ERA would like to point out that air pollution remains one of its major concerns and that it is not its intention to minimise the issue. ERA has always been consistent in stating that the major source of air pollution in urban areas is road traffic. This is confirmed by data emanating from the real time monitoring stations managed by the Authority.” 

It argued that air quality had improved in recent years “both in tonnes of pollutant emissions per year and in ambient air quality concentrations, due to the overall reform of the power generation sector.” The reform of the public transport system has also achieved results, it said, adding that Malta had also made progress in the implementation of a number of sustainable mobility measures. However “more needs to be done in this area,” it conceded, making reference to the National Air Pollution Control Programme (NAPCP) which it had commissioned. The public consultation stage for this programme closed on Friday.

Malta’s emissions ceiling for nitrogen oxides (NOx) is to be reached in 2030 and so far, emission projections for 2020 “show that Malta will not have difficulty in reaching the 2020 ceilings, however more effort is needed to reach our 2030 targets.”

The main effects of NOx is the increased likelihood of respiratory problems, especially in children and older people. NOx inflames the lining of the lungs, and it can reduce immunity to lung infections. This can cause problems such as bronchitis. This pollutant can also cause more frequent and more intense asthma attacks.

AD secretary-general Ralph Cassar had lashed out, saying that “Government couldn’t care less about people’s health and wellbeing so much so that it is presenting us with an action plan that does not even attempt to reach targets.”

The ERA rebutted this statement, saying that “solid air quality policy, accompanied with relevant studies are both important to deliver the required results. For example, it would not be wise to implement a low emission zone (LEZ) without studying various options on how it can be implemented for it to achieve the required environmental benefits. As the NAPCP explains, the study will look at the different options available to Malta and Gozo, and to assess which ones would deliver the desired results swiftly. The study would assess the size of a feasible LEZ within the already identified potential zones to achieve the greatest positive impact to the environment, with the greatest benefit to citizens’ everyday lives.” 

The ultimate aim is to "induce a long-term (especially commuter) behavioural change of how people get to-and-from congested areas, which would lead to cleaner air throughout the Maltese Islands," the ERA said. 

 

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