FUTURAR - Air quality in Portugal in 2030 – a policy support
Instituto de Saúde Pública da Universidade do Porto (ISPUP/UP) • Epidemiology Research Unit Institute of Public Health, University of Porto (EPIUnit) • Universidade de Aveiro (UA) • Centro de Estudos do Ambiente e do Mar (CESAM/UA)
Emissions of air pollutants cause a variety of adverse impacts on human health, including premature mortality, morbidity, and on environment, namely crop losses, risks to biodiversity, and acidification of soils and surface waters . Despite the emissions decrease and the air quality improvement in Europe and Portugal over the last decade, ozone (O3) and particulate matter (PM) atmospheric concentrations are still exceeding EU standards. In this sense, the revised Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution (TSAP), adopted in Dec 2013, includes a directive proposal on updated National Emission Ceilings (NEC) for NOx, SO2, VOC and NH3 and considering PM2.5 and methane (CH4) as additional new ceilings to be attained in 2030. The impact assessment of TSAP, performed by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), demonstrates the magnitude of economic benefits through improved health as a result of moving from the Current Legislation (CLE) scenario to the Maximum Technically Feasible Reduction (MTFR) scenario for the years 2025 and 2030 [10,18].
According to the referred impact assessment, together with the current legislation, the additional measures studied would increase life expectancy in the EU by 52%, from 2005 to 2030, decrease premature deaths attributable to exposure to O3 by 34%. Lower nitrogen deposition will safeguard biodiversity in additional nature protection zones, and more than 98% of EU forest areas will be protected against acidification. The costeffective allocation of emission reduction measures (corresponding to 70% of MTFR benefits) to achieve these air quality improvements estimates for Portugal a 83% decline of SO2 emissions against 2005 level. NOx and PM would decline by 61 and 68% respectively, NH3 by 19% and VOC by 44%, accordingly to the updated results [4,5]. However, these are country-base estimates based on emission totals, lacking information on the spatial variability of emission in Portugal and geographic allocation of air quality and health impacts.
In this context, the main goal of FUTURAR project is to investigate the air quality impacts, costs and benefits of emission reduction projections for 2030, using modelling tools to estimate the spatial distribution of environment and health impacts over Portugal. FUTURAR will produce:
i) robust disaggregated emission scenarios, with focus on improving the spatial haracterization of NH3 and CH4 emissions from the agriculture sector, based on current emissions and projections under NEC scenarios by activity sector and pollutant and on energy, population, land use data and projections
ii) estimates of future air quality at high temporal and spatial resolution for the NEC baseline and target years (2020, 2025, 2030) considering meteorological changes and up to date online/offline air quality modelling tools and a fully understanding of O3 and PM formation and removal processes, and climate-chemistry feedbacks
iii) maps of air quality indicators of the impact of emission reduction scenarios on human health based on the most suitable exposure response functions
iv) NEC emission reduction cost-benefit maps for Portugal based on a cost-benefit analysis to assess and compare the
identified policy emission scenarios.
By this novel approach for policy support in Portugal, FUTURAR will address and overtake the following policy-oriented research gaps:
- uncertainties of emission inventories, especially regarding the pollutants PM2.5, NH3 and CH4.
- shortcomings of current modelling strategy used by IIASA to identify optimal O3 and PM precursor emission reduction strategies, since it assumes linear source-receptor relationships, although the VOC/NOx/CH4/O3 chemistry is highly non-linear.
- lack of generally accepted and country-specific exposure-response functions for many important morbidity endpoints.
This research will support policy strategies to be taken at national and regional level by competent authorities (e.g. Portuguese Environment Agency) to control the emissions of precursors by defining policy-oriented recommendations and guidelines to support the implementation of new EU air policy in Portugal, and contribute to the national air pollution control programme (NAPCP) to be adopted as a requirement of the new NEC proposal. Moreover, FUTURAR outcomes will support TSAP assessments allowing to fill knowledge gaps and adjust/tune/improve IIASA estimates of emissions reduction and consequently environment and health impacts for Portugal, by providing information on key uncertainties and research needs.
The project team includes experienced groups working on emissions, air quality, human exposure and environmental economics (Universidade de Aveiro -UA), environmental health assessment (Insituto de Saúde Pública, Universidade do Porto-ISP-UP) [e.g.22,26,33,34], and an external advisor from IIASA (Fabian Wagner) who has been working on integrated assessment modelling for policy support of EU clean air strategies [e.g.4]