What Has Been Done to Tackle Air Pollution?

Air pollution has been known to affect the health of humans and nature for centuries. The sources that contribute to air pollution are both natural and anthropogenic (human-produced). The rapid increase in population since the 20th century coupled with the excessive use of energy has resulted in the emission of toxic air pollutants. Although air pollution is a problem that threatens all ecosystems in today’s reality, some little gestures from humans can reduce the amount of air pollution so much that it starts to decrease and prevent serious permanent issues. This article describes what every person can do to reduce air pollution and what countries have done in the past to see what we can learn from those.

Most common ways to prevent air pollution:

The most essential answer for air pollution is to move away from non-renewable energy sources, supplanting them with elective energies such as sun, wind, and geothermal oriented ones. Small actions that we can do can have a lot of impact on the environment and prevent air pollution. Using eco-friendly transportation such as electric vehicles and public transport can diminish the number of pollutants and gases that rise to the atmosphere. Other easy and efficient ways to reduce pollution include planting trees as forests absorb/process a third of worldwide releases annually. According to CNN, Ethiopia has set the world record of planting trees by planting more than 353 million trees in 12 hours. This is not to suggest we need to all do something as drastic, but planting trees on a global scale is potentially necessary or is necessary for us to fight air pollution.

A more modern version of reducing air pollution is the construction of green buildings.

A green building is a structure that in its plan lessens or disposes of negative effects to cause only positive effects on our atmosphere and regular habitat such as great indoor ecological air quality, utilization of environmentally friendly power, for example, sunlight based energy, to have leads to health improvements for people and the environment. According to GBCI (Green Business Certification Inc.), the United States where the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) originated, is the largest market for LEED which is the most widely used green building rating system in the world.

Actions that countries have taken to reduce air pollution:

Air pollution is a problem that all countries suffer from. Starting from individual actions to reduce air pollution, many countries cooperated to lessen air pollution. In the majority of European nations, they abide by the EEA when it comes to tackling air pollution. The European Environment Agency (EEA) states: 

“The EU’s long-term objective is to achieve levels of air quality that do not result in unacceptable impacts on, and risks to, human health and the environment. The EU acts at many levels to reduce exposure to air pollution: through legislation; cooperation with sectors responsible for air pollution, as well as international, national and regional authorities and non-governmental organisations; and research. EU policies aim to reduce exposure to air pollution by reducing emissions and setting limits and target values for air quality.”

The main goal is to improve air quality in Europe, so EEA’s work centres on making air pollution information freely available, surveying, discussing contamination patterns in Europe, exploring trade-offs between air pollution and arrangements in numerous regions, counting climate change and vitality. The EEA also released tables and charts which state the emission of the main air pollutants in Europe stating that in EEA countries, ammonia emissions have decreased by 18% overall since 1990, but have been continuously increasing since 2014.

Paris limiting vehicles use:

Individual countries-and occasionally cities- have taken different measures. For example, Paris doesn’t allow the use of cars in numerous central districts at the end of the week and supports public transportation methods alongside bike or car sharing. According to Sortir A Paris, the last time this has been done was September 27 2020. Although this might have negative impacts such as difficulties in reaching your destination, it might be a great solution to be done occasionally to reduce air pollution. According to the INDEPENDENT, it was found to reduce exhaust emissions by 40%. 

Most people of Paris approved of this way, as The Irish Times states:

 “Car Free Day should be repeated at least once a year, according to almost 90 per cent of residents surveyed in cities and towns which participated. Some 33 per cent of those surveyed said Car Free Day, held last month, should be repeated once a week.”

Looking at these numbers from the survey carried out, it will give confidence to any major city that they can carry out a measure like that. London, New York and Beijing for example (all big, bustling cities) could look to implement this to reduce pollution.

Kyoto Protocol:

Other steps that countries took to limit air pollution included the Kyoto Protocol. It started in Kyoto, Japan on 11 December 1997 and the first commitment period expired on 31 December 2012. According to the United Nations Climate Change (UNFCCC), the main goal of the Kyoto Protocol was to limit the release of harmful gases into the atmosphere, this includes the main six greenhouse gases, including Carbon Dioxide. About 192 countries signed the Protocol. It’s assumed that the Kyoto Protocol was a huge success because according to charts, the countries that signed the Protocol (on average) reduced their CO2 emissions by 12.5% and reduced the onset of global warming. However, after that, the Kyoto Protocol failed due to deficiencies in the structure of the agreement, such as the exemption of the developed countries from the conditions for reductions or the lack of an appropriate mechanism for carbon trading, and it excluded developing countries from binding targets, and countries like the USA rejected the Protocol. Because the USA is one of the most developed countries across the globe, its denial was one of the reasons the Kyoto Protocol failed. Although the carbon dioxide rate dropped, it was not enough for the Kyoto Protocol to last. Therefore, the Kyoto Protocol failed in 2012, according to Investopedia

In 2015, at the sustainable development summit held in Paris, all UNFCCC participants signed yet another pact, the Paris Climate Agreement, which effectively replaced the Kyoto Protocol. However, whether this new pact has been successful or not is debatable- there have been rising emissions and temperatures in the last five years. What’s even more worrying is that the latter stage of 2020 saw the warmest global temperatures since records have started This has caused great concerns for all states.

In conclusion, air pollution is a problem that has effects on almost every aspect of life, a threat and danger to the environment such as acid rain and global warming. Although air pollution is a serious problem that made many societies suffer, human actions and activities can still have an impact on air pollution as highlighted throughout this article.  Whether an agreement, protocol or temporary change in transport has been successful, will always be a subjective matter. 

However, it can be seen that in recent times, governments have made efforts to change their ways for the better- and with this, it is hoped that in years to come, the world will be able to come together to combat this alarming issue.

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