Our modes of transport, our food and our energy must change drastically, according to an expert from the European Environment Agency, as Europe looks to tackle the scourge of air pollution.
Air pollution causes thousands of people in Europe to fall ill each year. Whether it is caused by coal-fired heating, cars or chemical production, the issue of pollution continues to drive research and innovation seeking to eliminate it.
Progress is being made. Our air is becoming cleaner, and technology now allows us to monitor air quality in real time, and even improve it.
We spoke to Alberto González Ortiz, an air quality expert at the European Environment Agency, to ask how we can drastically reduce the main air pollution sources.
Technological, structural and behavioural measures
"We can apply what is called technological measures, for instance, apply improvements in the performance of the vehicles. We also have what is called structural measures. For instance, we can create a good lane infrastructure. Or we can act on the urban design. And then we have behavioural measures. For instance, do not use the car that much, change to bike, change to walking.
"At the agency, we are talking about changing our systems: the mobility system, the food system, the energy system. If you think of a traffic jam. If we replace all these vehicles with electric emissions, we will reduce the emissions. But we will still have a jam. They will emit not from the exhaust pipes but maybe we will have emissions from the brakes, from the asphalte, we will have noise... If we change our systems of mobility, we will have better and cleaner transportation, people bike, people walk... We decrease the emissions but we also have more physical activity, we also have some space so that the people can interact, this is also good for mental health.
Interactions between climate change and air pollution
According to Alberto González Ortiz, there are interactions between climate change and air pollution
"First of all, they share the same sources, so they should also share the same solutions. If we think for example about renewable energy, on how to better isolate our buildings, with solutions also applicable to climate change. If we apply these long-term measures, the impact will be seen also day by day, so you will see an improvement in the situation for sure."