A report on air quality in Italy has highlighted the improvements that have occurred as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and has called for concerted action on mobility to ensure that air pollution does not return to previous, health-damaging levels.
The report, "MobilitAria 2020", was the annual report on air pollution and mobility in Italy produced by the Kyoto Club and the Institute of Air Pollution of the National Research Council (CNR-IIA). The aim of the report was to outline air quality trends and urban mobility policies in 14 of Italy's main cities and metropolitan areas for the period 2019-2020.
In 2019, there was a small improvement in air quality compared to previous years. However, this change was not sufficient to put the cities on course to comply with regulatory limits. On the other hand, because of COVID-19 outbreak, 2020 has seen a sharp drop in pollution levels, especially in the decline of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in all of the main Italian cities.
The biggest drop has occurred in Rome, where the average concentrations were much lower than in previous years (2016-2019). NO2 dropped by 59% for the month of March and 71% in April. Turin experienced a decrease of 43% in March and 51% for April, while Milan benefited from declines of 29% and 43%, respectively. At the same time, NO2 emissions in Naples declined by 33% and 57% for the same months.
However, as lockdown measures are eased in Italy, there is a risk of a quick return to previous, health-damaging air pollution levels. In this regard, many municipal administrations are already starting to implement Emergency Mobility Plans, to encourage cycling and walking, to reorganise public transport, to enhance shared mobility, and to encourage smart working and online services. However, according to the Kyoto Club and CNR-IIA report, the recent initiatives will not be sufficient to counteract the anticipated growth in traffic and congestion.
For this reason, Kyoto Club and CNR-IIA argue that now, more than ever, it is necessary to accelerate the transition to sustainable mobility. They call for structural changes and innovation to accelerate the decarbonisation of transport according to 3 main principles: Avoid, Shift, Improve. To achieve these goals, they proposed several measures, such as:
- enhancing smart working and ensuring that services are located throughout the city;
- re-thinking working hours and other schedules to reduce travel and congestion in peak hours in order to make better use of less congested times of the day;
- expanding shared mobility services;
- promoting cycling mobility through the expansion of cycle paths and services for cyclists;
- supporting public transport;
- enhancing the role of the mobility manager in city administrations;
- reorganising logistics in a more sustainable way;
- focusing on the electrification of vehicles; and
- maintaining the current 'limited traffic zones' and 'low emission zones'.
For more information, see the full report https://www.kyotoclub.org/medialibrary/Rapporto_Mobilitaria2020_DEFINITIVO_maggio2020.pdf
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Original article published by Kyoto Club on 28 May 2020.