Preliminary data for 2018 show a slight improvement in all legislated pollutants, although it is less significant in nitrogen dioxide, particulates and ozone, which are very harmful to health.

The preliminary data of the Evaluation Report on Air Quality in Spain for the year 2018 show a slight improvement over the previous year in all legislated pollutants, although it is less significant for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particulates (PM 10) and ozone (O3), three pollutants very harmful to health.

However, the data indicate that Spain continues to present breaches of the EU air quality directive, within the framework of the reasoned opinion opened by the Commission, which could lead to a sanctioning procedure by the Court of Justice of the European Union. (CJEU).

Thus, these preliminary data reveal that in the case of nitrogen dioxide the hourly limit value (VLH) was exceeded in Madrid capital, while the annual limit value (VLA) was exceeded in four areas of Spain (Madrid, Corredor del Henares , metropolitan area of ​​Barcelona, ​​and Granada and its metropolitan area).

For the pollutant particles (PM10) the daily limit value (50 micrograms / m3) was exceeded in Villanueva del Arzobispo (Jaén). Regarding tropospheric ozone (O3), the advance shows that in 2018 high levels were still recorded in suburban or rural areas, largely due to the high insolation and the emission of its precursors (mainly NOx and volatile organic compounds). If in 2017 there were 36 exceedances of the target value for health protection (VOS), 2018 was closed with 34. The Community of Madrid, Andalusia, Castilla-La Mancha, Valencia and Murcia are the most affected regions.

Ozone is found naturally in the atmosphere and is concentrated mainly in the stratosphere, about 20 kilometers above the Earth's surface, where it forms the well-known ozone layer, which protects living beings from ultraviolet radiation from the sun .

Ozone can also accumulate in another part of the atmosphere, the troposphere, located from the Earth's surface up to about 10 kilometers in height. In this case, it acts as a pollutant. In particular, it is a secondary pollutant, that is, it is not emitted directly by a source but arises due to the chemical reaction produced by the effect of solar radiation on primary pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides or volatile organic compounds. , which becomes more evident in periods of high insolation, common in Spanish territory during the summer.

Improvement with respect to 2017

In general terms, these preliminary data represent a slight improvement over 2017, the year in which the number of exceedances was higher, both in terms of NO2 (1 exceeding the VLH and 7 of the VLA), as well as the PM10 ( 5 exceedances of the VLD and 1 of the VLA) and to the O3 (36 surpasses of the VOS).

Although it is still early to make an assessment, the data indicate a trend that suggests that the measures put in place by some administrations, such as the creation of a low emission area in Madrid or the promotion of public transport and electrification, are beginning to have a positive impact on the improvement of air quality. To this a favorable meteorological conditions are united, because 2018 was a year especially rainy.

Once all the data have been collected and validated, they will be notified to the European Commission, detailing the situation of the zones with respect to the legislated values. The objective of this report will be to provide a global vision of air quality, as well as to describe how its evaluation and management is carried out.

The European Union has set a target by 2030 to halve the number of premature deaths related to poor air quality. In this sense, the new EU budget for 2021-2027 will allocate one in four euros to the fight against climate change, the promotion of the circular economy and the improvement of air quality.

The European Union has shown growing concern in recent years about achieving the air quality objectives set out in European legislation for all Member States, so that all European citizens enjoy a quality ambient air.

Infringement procedures

In this sense, it opened infringement proceedings to eleven member states, including Spain, which to date have been trying to bring to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) eight countries for breaches of NO2 and particulate matter.

Spain has not yet been brought before the Court, as the Commission estimates that the measures adopted to date go in the right direction, in the light of the reports sent since January 2017 on an almost monthly basis and in which the Community authorities of the measures taken and those planned to achieve by 2020 the values ​​required by European legislation.

However, the Commission has repeatedly informed that it will closely monitor the evolution of the effects of the measures adopted and, in the event of any indication of non-compliance, it will not hesitate to bring Spain before the CJEU, with particular vigilance as regards NO2 in the city of Madrid and the metropolitan area of ​​Barcelona, ​​where measures have been taken that, while it is early to ensure their effectiveness, are on track to achieve the objectives required by European legislation.

In compliance with the European regulations in this matter, the Ministry for the Ecological Transition has prepared a draft of National Plan for the Control of Atmospheric Pollution whose purpose is to improve air quality in Spain and whose public information period recently ended.

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