Cyclists in Berlin's Kreuzberg

2020: Berlin's cleanest year since air measurements begun

2020: Berlin's cleanest year since air measurements begun

The annual air quality report found which specific measures affected pollution

Last Friday, authorities in Berlin announced that 2020 was the year with the lowest air pollution due to nitrogen dioxide and fine dust particles since measurements had begun. The results were published in the city’s annual air-pollution report and experts attribute them to the administration’s concentrated effort on reducing both emissions and traffic.

COVID-19 helped with air pollution

According to the 2020 report, NO2(nitrogen dioxide), the main pollutant emitted by cars fell by an average of 15% compared to the previous year. Nitrogen dioxide pollution levels have also shown a gradual reduction over time, especially on the big boulevards of the city.

The reduction can be attributed to lower levels of car traffic in favour of public transport, increased bike traffic and walking. Another point is that there are fewer Euro 5/V polluting vehicles on the road.

Furthermore, and according to the city’s plans, the entire public transportation fleet should be electrified by the year 2030, which will lead to a sustained air quality improvement, due to energy efficiency.

Researchers also acknowledge the positive effects of the COVID 19 pandemic, as during the first lockdown in March and April, nitrogen pollution levels fell by at least 15%. However, they also point out that this is no reason to lag behind on expanding clean air measures. Instead, authorities should use this as a momentum to further the goal of breathable air in cities.

Fine dust particles and green zones

When it comes to fine dust particles, Berlin has stayed within the limits set out by the European Union since 2015. It has also reduced annual levels of that contaminant for several years in a row now. Again, researchers found that major boulevards registered the best improvement in air quality - a testament to the effectiveness of local policies.

Some of the measures behind these results are the retrofitting of old diesel vehicles with soot filters or the 30 kilometres per hour limit placed on more and more streets. The speed limit also helps to lessen particulate matter from wear-and-tear on the roads and from the whirling up of particles caused by a speeding vehicle.

One of the last areas where the city needs to take action is the fine particles emitted by fireplaces, defined as secondary heating sources fuelled by wood. They are a heavy contributor to particulate pollution especially in the winter months, with one solution proposed - the installation of chimney filters.



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