All this week, Debating Europe will be running a themed week looking at green issues in Europe. We will be focusing particularly on air quality, climate change and CO2 emissions, and taking YOUR questions and comments on the environment to European politicians for them to answer.
The year 2013 is, according to the European Commission, the official European Year of Citizens. Apparently, though, it is also the official Year of Air. Could cash-strapped Europe save money by combining the two? The new year could be called either the year of a “Breath of Fresh Air from Citizens” or, if you’re feeling slightly less charitable, the “European Year of Hot Air”.
Anyway, isn’t air pollution more of a problem in the developing world? Research published last year in the Lancet suggests that two-thirds of the 3.2 million premature deaths caused by air pollution in 2010 were in Asia, where air quality is steadily decreasing as factories pump out smog, traffic jams clog the roads and the dust from construction projects fills the air. Conversely, the World Health Organization reports that Europe (in the grips of an economic crisis) has some of the cleanest air in the world. What’s the problem?
Well, Europe as a whole may have high air quality standards, but there are still huge problems in major cities like Turin, Seville, Paris, Dresden and London. If you, or someone you know, suffer from asthma or breathing difficulties, you will already know that an attack can sometimes be triggered by heavy smog or bad air pollution. As more parts of the world industrialise, and as people move from the countryside into cities, air pollution globally is becoming a real concern. Urban air pollution can cause cardiopulmonary diseases, lung cancer and respiratory infections, and the young and elderly are particularly vulnerable.
On Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 11:30 CET, we will be liveblogging a special student-led debate in Brussels on the topic of air quality in Europe, with Bas Eickhout MEP, Dr Gary Haq, Senior Research Associate at the Stockholm Environment Institute and Ulf Bjornholm from the Air Quality & Noise Unit of the Directorate-General for Environment, European Commission.
What do YOU think? What is the air quality like where YOU live? Do you think air quality in the EU is the best in the world, or is there more that can be done? And is air pollution a problem in Europe? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.