It is top marks for Zurich, but Luxembourg is at the bottom of the class.
Point of view
Zurich has already progressed well beyond the EU's norms
A survey that ranks the efforts of 23 major European cities to improve air quality has just been released.
This is different to other pollution surveys, which mostly analyse the actual quality of the air.
The rankings are part of a campaign called Soot-free for the climate, produced by Friends of the Earth Germany and supported by members of the European Environmental Bureau.
Zurich came out on top, closely followed by Copenhagen, Vienna and Stockholm.
Berlin, top of the last survey in 2012, came fifth this time around.
Luxembourg, Lisbon, Rome, Madrid and Glasgow are in the bottom five.
Who's best at fighting air pollution?
The 23 European cities were evaluated in nine categories, including the promotion of sustainable transport, traffic management, as well as economic incentives such as congestion charges and parking.
However, judges say none of the 23 cities reached what they call “Grade A”, which is awarded for cities that score at least 90 per cent of the maximum number of points.
For the survey, the campaign team chose Western European capitals, cities with high pollution and those expected to provide good examples.
The judges say Zurich came out on top this year thanks to its “policy mix, which includes a strong commitment to reduce pollution from vehicles, the promotion of cleaner forms of transport and low levels of air pollution”.
However, they point out that while Zurich is well below the EU’s air quality limits, it currently fails to meet far stricter Swiss standards.
The Soot-free cities website says “air pollution causes nearly half a million premature deaths each year in the European Union”.
It goes on: “In busy cities, air quality is usually at its worst, with high concentrations of particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone.
“The average life expectancy of people living in the EU’s most polluted areas is reduced by over two years as a consequence of this. A lot can be done at a local level to avoid these emissions.”
The damage to the environment and concerns about global warming are also highlighted.
Zurich and the second-ranking city, Copenhagen, are praised for substantially reducing the number of cars and imposing restrictions on highly-polluting vehicles.
Arne Fellermann, the Transport Policy Officer at Friends of the Earth Germany, said in a statement: “Our ranking shows that cities across Europe have been actively fighting air pollution because of the EU’s air quality standards.”
He added: “Although 90 per cent of Europeans living in cities today are still breathing unhealthy air, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Vienna or Berlin have either met, or are due to meet, the EU limit values within the next two years. Zurich has already progressed well beyond the EU’s norms.”
However, the campaign group does say that cities in Europe are hampered by inadequate action at an EU level and that more effective European-wide rules should be introduced.
Louise Duprez, Senior Policy Officer for Air Pollution at the European Environmental Bureau, said in a statement: “Cities can do a lot to improve air quality, but they are left exposed to some pollution they can’t control.
“This includes pollution that comes from outside the city, like emissions from agriculture or industry. The EU must be more ambitious if it wants to prevent repeats of last week’s deadly smog.”