A reduction in regional air pollution in Europe has been achieved during the past decade and it is anticipated that further reductions will be obtained during the next one to two decades. The target for reductions of ozone precursors for the 15 European Union (EU) member states for 2010 relative to 1990 is about 50 percent. As of 1998 an overall reduction of about 20 percent had been achieved, with results for individual countries ranging from increased precursor emissions in Portugal and Greece to reductions of about 40 percent in Luxembourg and Germany. In Germany, the length of time that ozone limits were exceeded decreased substantially over the past decade. The annual-mean ozone amount did not decrease, although the growth rate did slow to almost zero. Some of the factors that prevented the annual mean ozone from decreasing probably include continued increases in atmospheric methane and ozone precursor emissions in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere. The concentration of black soot in street canyons decreased by 25-50 percent in German cities during the past decade. Improved emission controls on road traffic and decreased use of coal are likely contributors to the declining levels of black soot.
The gross domestic product of the EU increased about 20 percent between 1990 and 1999. Energy use increased about ten percent in that period, so energy intensity declined about ten percent, reflecting an increase in energy efficiency of about one percent per year. Despite the absolute growth of energy use, a decrease of annual carbon dioxide emissions of about five percent was achieved, mainly as a result of fuel switching, especially reduced coal use, with a smaller contribution from increased use of renewable energies. The European Car Manufacturer's Association (ECMA) proposed, and the EU accepted, an agreement to reduce per-vehicle greenhouse gas emissions for new cars by 25 percent between 1995 and 2008. A variety of technologies are being implemented to meet these goals. For example, low rolling resistance tires reduce fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by five percent, at very low cost and without compromising safety or increasing noise. For cars sold within the EU between 1995 to 2001, the ECMA has cut its average new car carbon dioxide emissions by 11.4 percent. During this same period the average mass, power, and engine capacity of new cars has increased 8.8 percent, 19.0 percent, and 4.9 percent, respectively.
Dr. Axel Freidrich is the Head of the Environment and Transport Division at the Umweltbundesamt (German EPA) and is the single person most responsible for progress in the European Union on motor vehicle and other controls.
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