European Law Monitor

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European researchers call for wider use of existing eco-technology in the fight against global warming

Current international protocols and national legislation designed to reduce air pollution need to go further if more damage to the climate and environment due to high ozone concentrations is to be avoided. Until that is in place, better use of existing technology can help reduce the harmful effect of such emissions and bring ozone levels in most regions of the world into compliance with current standards. This would minimise the negative impacts of ozone on human health, ecosystems and global warming. This is the conclusion of scientific studies carried out by European Commission scientists and the ACCENT network of research scientists, funded by the EU

In a study published in the journal “Environmental Science and Technology”, researchers compared the results of 26 models of atmospheric chemistry covering the entire global atmosphere. The models showed that with no legislation, emissions would increase to potentially dangerous levels. Even with the legislation that is in place, the models showed that emissions would still increase and the threat to the global eco-system would rise with them. The third scenario examined using the full potential of existing technology to reduce emissions, and showed a substantial improvement in both ozone levels and the impact of nitrogen deposition. This shows that better use of technology can reduce air pollution as well as lower the impact of global warming by greenhouse gases not covered by the Kyoto Protocol. The next step will be to develop practical guidance on how to implement these findings based on a thorough analysis of the costs and benefits.

Ozone is produced when substances such as carbon monoxide, methane or other similar compounds react with nitrogen oxides resulting from traffic, industry or domestic energy use such as heating or cooking. Ozone is a greenhouse gas and so contributes to global warming.

EU, North American countries and Japan have laws establishing limits for the concentrations of ozone in the air and other countries in Asia and Latin America are putting them in place. Internationally there is a UN convention on long-range trans-boundary air pollution that identifies specific measures to be taken to reduce emissions of air pollutants such as ozone.

This study comes out as ministers from around the world meet in Nairobi to discuss the action needed to combat climate change when the Kyoto Protocol runs out in 2012. The research was carried out by scientists from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre working with ACCENT, a EU-funded Network of Excellence focussing on atmospheric composition change.