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Archive for November, 2020

German court cases lead to decline in air pollution

Air pollution has fallen twice as steeply in German cities where air quality litigation has been taken, new analysis has shown. 

Consumer affairs and environmental experts at Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) have taken litigation in 40 German cities over the consistently dangerous levels of air pollution. 

DUH and ClientEarth took part in legal battles across Germany when the country’s highest court confirmed that diesel restrictions were legally necessary. 

Following this, diesel restrictions were imposed in many major German cities. 

Between 2018 and 2019 alone, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels reduced by an average of 4.2µg/m³ in cities where air quality litigation has been undertaken, whereas, in cities where no action was taken, the average reduction stands at just 2.1µg/m³.

Dorothee Saar, head of transport and air quality at DUH said: ‘People are finally breathing cleaner air – legal action works. We see the potential for NO2 to meet legal limits in every German town by 2021.

‘Politicians and the diesel industry have pushed against us at every stage, just for working towards a reality where people actually get to breathe clean air.

‘In the end, the court rulings and these latest findings say it all: our litigation was justified and successful. We must hold our leaders to account when our health is on the line.’

ClientEarth lawyer Ugo Taddei added: ‘The Covid-19 pandemic makes clear how important it is to clean up the air in accordance with the law, to avoid increasing the burden on those with poor health. But while the improvement in German air quality is encouraging, there is a risk Covid-19 could buck this trend.

‘Amid the pandemic, people are abandoning public transport in favour of private vehicles. This shift worsens pollution and creates more dangerous conditions for cyclists and pedestrians. This is why we need concrete measures in place: we need to get the most polluting vehicles out of the centres of our towns and cities.’

[Source: Air Quality News]

SARS-CoV-2 concentrations and virus-laden aerosol size distributions in outdoor air in north and south of Italy

Abstract

The COVID-19 disease spread at different rates in the different countries and in different regions of the same country, as happened in Italy. Transmission by contact or at close range due to large respiratory droplets is widely accepted, however, the role of airborne transmission due to small respiratory droplets emitted by infected individuals (also asymptomatic) is controversial. It was suggested that outdoor airborne transmission could play a role in determining the differences observed in the spread rate. Concentrations of virus-laden aerosol are still poorly known and contrasting results are reported, especially for outdoor environments. Here we investigated outdoor concentrations and size distributions of virus-laden aerosol simultaneously collected during the pandemic, in May 2020, in northern (Veneto) and southern (Apulia) regions of Italy. The two regions exhibited significantly different prevalence of COVID-19. Genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 (RNA) was determined, using both real time RT-PCR and ddPCR, in air samples collected using PM10 samplers and cascade impactors able to separate 12 size ranges from nanoparticles (diameter D<0.056 μm) up to coarse particles (D>18 μm). Air samples tested negative for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 at both sites, viral particles concentrations were <0.8 copies m-3 in PM10 and <0.4 copies m-3 in each size range investigated. Outdoor air in residential and urban areas was generally not infectious and safe for the public in both northern and southern Italy, with the possible exclusion of very crowded sites. Therefore, it is likely that outdoor airborne transmission does not explain the difference in the spread of COVID-19 observed in the two Italian regions.

[Source: Science Direct, 13 Nov 2020]

Reserve Bank Governor says NZ needs broad transformational change to address risks of climate change

In a speech delivered to the Pacific Ocean Pacific Climate Conference, Mr Orr reflected on the need for transformational change, as well as a collective and urgent response to climate risks.

“There’s a lot to do and we are late in leaving port. Climate change is a risk that requires a collective response. Grounding a response in our collective knowledge, data and expertise will strengthen and compound the effects of our actions.”

Like many other central banks and regulators, the Reserve Bank sees climate change as a key risk to the financial stability underpinning the economy.

The Reserve Bank developed a climate change strategy in 2018 to integrate climate considerations across its work. Significant progress has been made by the Bank since then including:

  • Reporting its own verified carbon footprint;
  • Building capability to understand climate-related risks in the sectors we regulate;
  • Training its supervisors in climate-related risks and integrating climate more intensively into our approach;
  • Raising awareness of climate-related risks to financial stability through external engagements and our biannual Financial Stability Reports; and
  • Leading through experience and collaboration with its involvement in the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS), Sustainable Insurance Forum (SIF), and leading the Council of Financial Regulators’ (CoFR) Climate work stream.

Mr Orr welcomed developments towards mandatory climate-related financial disclosures.

[Source: Reserve Bank]