Air pollution makes Antwerp ‘second mortal city in Europe’
According to a European study, Belgian cities like Antwerp and Brussels score badly on air pollution. Antwerp sits second and Brussels in eighth place for mortality levels due to nitrogen dioxide in the ranking of thousand European cities. The first deadly city in the European ranking is Madrid, followed by Antwerp, Turin, Paris, and Milan.
The study, based on data from 2015, was conducted by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, researchers from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, and the University of Utrecht. It was published in The Lancet Planetary Health.
Antwerp is not happy with the score, but Antwerp Alderman Tom Meeuws (sp.a) emphasizes the results are based on 2015 data when the city didn’t have any low-emission zones yet. The rules for entering the city even became more severe in 2020.
Antwerp earlier announced its ambitious goals, up to 55% fewer CO2 emissions by 2050, among others. The city approved a climate plan containing several measures to reduce CO2 emissions, collect rainwater, keep the city cool during heatwaves, and other measures about energy, mobility, housing, and public works.
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a gas that is mainly produced by car traffic. It also produces smog. Inhaling NO2 can irritate the lungs and cause respiratory infections. Chronic exposure can lead to premature deaths.
In Antwerp, 7% of annual natural deaths are caused by air pollution and nitrogen dioxide in the air, to be specific. In Brussels, it is 6%. There’s an urgent need to bring pollution levels down. Brussels could avoid almost 530 premature deaths due to pollution if the nitrogen dioxide level equaled the cleanest cities in Europe. The study also shows that the high mortality rate in Brussels is also due to traffic pollution.
According to Greenpeace, the Flemish government must align its Air Policy Plan 2030 with the European rules. “This means the plan has to indicate a clear timing with ambitious measures like ultra-low emission zones, smart kilometer tax, and large investments in bicycle infrastructure, public transport, and shared mobility solutions,” explains Greenpease’s spokesperson Joerie Thijs in De Morgen.
Brussels already has a low-emission zone, but it is insufficient. The city has to install a zero-emission zone like in Paris, Amsterdam, and Rome.
“A disturbing fact is that the network that has to keep a close watch on the air quality in Brussels doesn’t function and underestimates the real pollution in the city,” explains Ugo Taddei of NGO Client-Earth.
The organization, therefore, wants to take the matter into court. Client-Earth demands regional authorities to measure air pollution and set up a solid, detailed, and ambitious air quality plan.