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Project Clean Air - a fresh breeze to European cities

The Clean Air project will end in November 2015. This article gives a short overview about the outcome of the cooperation of 9 NGOs from 6 EU-member states to implement best-practice in the transport sector to enhance air quality.

2015 is the final year of the Clean Air project. So the time has come for reflecting on the project and its outcomes. What made the project interesting for experts in the field of air quality? The first important outcome is the strong interaction between the partners. Nine NGOs from six EU-member countries supported each other. It is impressive to experience in practice how powerful NGOs can be in political processes, especially when they focus and send their concentrated energy through their already existing, even expanding networks. That could be observed with positive outcomes in the European political process regards the national emission ceilings (NEC)-directive.

In addition all partners were working on different issues to reduce the emissions of air pollutants in the transport sector, like retrofitting busses and ships with particle filters and technologies to reduce NOx, building a judicial network or promoting the use of bicycles in cities. In all these fields progress was achieved. Here is - only a short - overview:

  • Together with partner-NGOs in Poland and the Czech Republic the Clean Air project illustrated the success of Low Emission Zones to motivate politicians, city administrations, media and the public to follow this good example for best practice. As outcomes of this hard and longtime work in Prague will start a LEZ 1.1.2016 and in Poland a law for LEZs is in the parliamentary process. This is one good example for Clean Air making contributions to the successful transfer of knowledge between member states.
  • Another measure transfer is successfully done by CEPTA in the Slovac Republic. Driving instructors are trained in eco-driving, to spread advice for driving in a fuel-saving way. The interest of driving trainers is very high.
  • Vehicles have higher emissions on the road than in the laboratory. This is discussed under the label “real driving emissions”. Partner T&E was actively involved in this discussion about possible solutions. Earlier this year there was already decided on European level to use portable emission measurement systems to make sure that new vehicles hold the European limits.
  • The Hungarian Clean Air Action Group (CAAG) is in close contact to the national government and decision makers in the city of Budapest. They achieved amongst others that the local bus company purchased 350 buses with the highest emission standard. This shows that even under hard political and financial conditions decisive action brings change.
  • How much interest there is for credible politics showed the event with the former mayor of London Ken Livingston. The event organized of vcö in Vienna found brought interest and nudged a debate on congestion charges in cities.
  • BUND took responsibility for inland waterway ships. The project brought the attention of the European level to the issues and some new projects will bring hard data to start the systematic clean up of this sector.
  • The German NGO NABU worked on cleaning up the air in harbors and to reduce the emissions of sea vessels. The sector in general was very open for discussions about enhancing the environmental standard of vessels. The change of the sector started by first new ships with clean technology and with measures in harbors, like in Hamburg started this year a power-supply by a LNG-barge, using the electricity cruise-ships can stop their engines while staying in the harbor. The parties of the city government in Hamburg announced an action program for clean air in the harbor, so further measures can be expected.
  • The Danish Ecocouncil creates wide media attention for air quality issues by performing public measuring events. This worked in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and in the capital of Austria.
  • The work of Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) to build a judicial network brought a groundbreaking judicial success in Germany. The federal administrative court in Leipzig sentenced on 5.9.2013 that NGOs have as associations the right to sue, if EU environmental law is broken in Germany.
  • In the Network European Biking Cities -tied by Verkehrsclub Deutschland (VCD) – six front runner cities the Spanish City of Victoria Gasteiz made big progress. It almost doubled its share of bicycle traffic from 6,8 to 12,3% in the last three years. The network demonstrated that quick changes are possible and more bicycles mean less pollution and more liveable cities.

This sportlight of the outcome of our work shows how successful our project is. It will come to an end November 2015, but all of the NGOs will continue their work on air quality. If you are interested to cooperate with our network please don’t hesitate to contact the Project Coordinator Heiko Balsmeyer.

Let’s clean up the air!