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Man saved from deportation after air pollution plea in French legal ‘first’

Court says man would face ‘worsening of his respiratory pathology due to air pollution’ in country of origin

Air pollution in Dhaka
Bangladesh ranked 179th in the world for air quality in 2020, while the concentration of fine particles in the air is six times the WHO’s recommended maximum. Photograph: Monirul Alam/EPA

A Bangladeshi man with asthma has avoided deportation from France after his lawyer argued that he risked a severe deterioration in his condition, and possibly premature death, due to the dangerous levels of pollution in his homeland.

In a ruling believed to be the first of its kind in France, the appeals court in Bordeaux overturned an expulsion order against the 40-year-old man because he would face “a worsening of his respiratory pathology due to air pollution” in his country of origin.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time a French court has applied the environment as one of its criteria in such a case,” the unnamed man’s lawyer, Ludovic Rivière, said. “It decided my client’s life would be endangered by the air quality in Bangladesh.”

Yale and Columbia universities’ Environmental Performance Index ranks Bangladesh 179th in the world for air quality in 2020, while the concentration of fine particles in the air is six times the World Health Organization’s recommended maximum. Air pollution, both ambient and household, was an extremely high risk factor in the 572,600 deaths in Bangladesh that were caused by noncommunicable disease in 2018, according to WHO figures.

The court took into consideration the fact that the drugs the man is receiving in France are not available in Bangladesh, and that the Bangladeshi health system can only provide the night-time ventilation equipment he needs for his sleep apnoea in hospital.

It also heard evidence that the man’s father had died of an asthma attack at the age of 54, Rivière said, and that since arriving in France and beginning treatment, his respiratory capacity had increased from 58% in 2013 to 70% in 2018.

“For all these reasons, the court decided that sending my client back to his country would mean putting him at real risk of death,” the lawyer said. “Respiratory failure as a result of an asthma attack would be almost inevitable.”

The man arrived in France in 2011 after fleeing persecution in his home country. He settled in Toulouse, found work as a waiter, and in 2015 was given a temporary residence permit as a foreign national requiring medical treatment.

In 2017, however, doctors advising the French immigration authorities recommended that his condition “could be adequately treated in Bangladesh”, and two years later the local Haute-Garonne prefecture issued an expulsion order.

A lower court in Toulouse overturned the deportation order in June last year, purely on the grounds that the relevant drugs were not in fact available in the man’s home country. The Bordeaux court went even further in rejecting the prefecture’s appeal, saying that the environmental criterion must also be taken into account.

Dr Gary Fuller, an air pollution scientist at Imperial College London, said this was the first case he was aware of in which the environment had been cited by a court in an extradition hearing. “The court has effectively declared that the environment – air pollution – meant it was unsafe to send this man back,” he said.

Fuller said the case fed into a steadily growing broader agenda about the right to a healthy environment. “There’s a UN rapporteur on this issue, and people around the world – particularly in countries with less developed environmental and health laws – who are developing thinking about declaring a right to a healthy environment.”

Many countries set standards for air and water quality, for example, but “stop short of actually saying you have a right to be protected from environmental harm”, Fuller said. The recent case of Ella Kissi-Debrah, the nine-year-old London girl who died in February 2013, could be seen as part of the same process, he said.

A London coroner made legal history last month by ruling that air pollution was a cause of Ella’s death, with acute respiratory failure and severe asthma. Court cases were being brought in other countries in Europe, Fuller said, as part of a growing trend around the world to seek institutional accountability for unhealthy environments.

[Source: The Guardian]

Who gets to breathe clean air?

Click here to view a new way of reporting on air quality.

[Kudos to the New York Times]








Climate action: the best gift for global health

The British Medical Journal weighs in this moment, right now.
Only 25% of a population is needed to change societal norms

The health community mobilised against covid-19 and can mobilise again.

December is a time for reflection, and there is much for us to process from 2020. The covid-19 pandemic proved to be an unprecedented global stress test for health systems—both revealing and exacerbating problematic areas. Disinformation and misinformation, mixed with a festering distrust of science, politicised age-old commonsense public health interventions.1,2 When prevention failed, even the best functioning healthcare systems broke under the surge of covid-19 patients. While the rollout of vaccines will lessen the pandemic burden, climate change still threatens to disrupt our health systems further and erode decades of health gains.

This month is the fifth anniversary of the Paris agreement, and we are at the critical juncture of countries disclosing their efforts to meet national commitments to reduce emissions.3 Thus far, the political will to implement policies that will avoid the most catastrophic health outcomes have failed to materialise; current policies place today’s world, already 1.2°C warmer than in pre-industrial times, at up to 4°C warmer by 2100.4,5

The fragility of health and health systems in a 1.2°C warmer world is already apparent, though these effects are not felt equally. Heatwave exposure among older people reached a record high in 2019, the conditions for transmitting dengue, malaria, and diseases caused by Vibrio are growing more favourable, and the yield potentials of major crops continue to decline.5 Yet only half of the countries surveyed have national climate and health plans, and two thirds of cities are concerned that climate change will overwhelm their public health infrastructure.5

After the events of 2020, many in health may find it hard to fathom tackling an existential crisis like climate change. Yet we are in the critical window for action6 and without a 7.6% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions each year over the next five years the goal of keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5°C in 2100 is likely to be out of reach.5,7 There are grounds for optimism, however, as the parallels and intersections with the covid-19 crisis have fostered advocacy for making climate action a critical part of pandemic recovery.7,8,9 The health community is well positioned10 to reinforce and amplify two key messages.

Firstly, climate action is essential for successfully tackling the other pressing global challenges affecting health, such as poverty and universal health coverage.11 Climate change underlies and exacerbates barriers for improving health, threatening to increasingly undermine health gains and widen inequalities.12 Governments must take an integrated approach when tackling these problems, and health professionals need to amplify the wide ranging health benefits of acting holistically.5

Climate action, equity, health, and economic goals are dependent and reinforce one another.5,7,13 Stimulus packages aimed at recovery from the pandemic offer a once in a generation opportunity to rapidly expand clean energy jobs and accelerate our transition to net zero economies.7,8,9 Most of the world has failed to capitalise on this opportunity.14

The second key message is that moving away from fossil fuels has health benefits and economic dividends in both the short and the long term. Although climate action yields greater gains for children and future generations, people today will also benefit, especially vulnerable groups. Air pollution has the same root cause as climate change—the burning of fossil fuels.15 Patients’ symptoms and healthcare use will improve in the weeks to months after air pollution is reduced, and lives will be saved.16 The pandemic lockdowns showed us just how quickly air pollution can improve.15,17 Transitioning away from fossil fuels could prevent 3.6 million premature deaths a year from air pollution alone and save nations billions in healthcare costs.5,7,18 Meanwhile, transitioning to more plant based diets and increasing physical activity through active transportation also bring near term health benefits.13

Long term, mitigating the health effects of climate change and minimising health system disruptions will improve health equity and benefit populations in profound ways that haven’t yet been fully quantified5,12 while also delivering evidence based economic dividends. For example, not exceeding 1.5°C of global warming could return $264tn-$610tn (£196tn-£450tn; €210tn-€500tn) in economic rewards by 2100.7

Yet data and science alone are not enough to motivate change.19 The message, messenger, and method are critical components, and a global medical community united around climate change can be the missing ingredient needed to catalyse action.10,20 Only 25% of a population is needed to change societal norms,21 and behavioural and social scientists can serve as critical experts. Health professionals are trusted sources20 that exist in every corner of the world to personalise the health benefits of climate interventions. These are powerful tools to combat politicisation and misinformation.19

Both the covid-19 pandemic and climate change bind the world—and the health community—together in a shared fate and common destiny. The health community must recognise this connectedness and harness its collective power. Together, we can galvanise the political will required to finally fill the prescription for better health and equity through climate action.

[Source: BMJ, 15 Dec 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


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]

Indian businessman rhymes the case for a universal carbon tax

Nadir Godrej of Godrej Industries entertained an online audience at Climate Week NYC with a poetic appeal to tax carbon and stop burning coal

Nadir Godrej, engineer, businessman and poet, recites verse in favour of carbon taxes and clean energy (Pic: The Climate Group)

Q: What could be the key levers for low-carbon development in the Indian context, are we getting it right?

1st Lever: Universal Carbon Price

It is no longer Climate Change

Within a tolerable range.

A crisis is what it’s about

With fires, floods as well as drought.

Every week a constant blast

Far worse than seen in the past.

If we must, we will adapt

Prevention though would be more apt.

There is a cost to adaptation,

It’s rising fast in every nation

As well as for the world at large.

And this will be a heavy charge.

In fact we should by now conclude

Prevention would be really shrewd.

It actually would cost much less

Indeed avoid a lot of stress.

A uniform carbon tax

Would protect all our backs,

Collected by each Nation state

But universal in its rate!

All GHGs would be fair game.

Every country should charge the same.

The benefit that this would yield

Would be a level playing field.

Competitors just wouldn’t care

Because this system’s very fair.

Just how high should this tax be?

A range of numbers we can see.

But Sixty dollars per metric ton

Would surely get reduction done.

For carbon this could be the rate

For others we would calibrate.

The appropriate rate we would select

Based on the Greenhouse Gas effect.

Based on today’s emissions rate

Quite candidly I should state

It wouldn’t be a trivial sum

But there’s no reason to be glum.

In dollars it would be Two Trillion

It is a lot but not a Zillion!

Compared to global GDP

The percentage is less than three.

Compared to taxes then again

The percentage is less than ten!

Of course some would then take a call

To reduce emissions not pay it all.

But bear in mind it’s not a cost.

For the economy nothing’s lost.

A UBI could be instated.

Some other tax could be abated.

And if this is indeed just so

The economy would still grow.

Don’t you think it’s very nice,

That there is no real price

Since very little would be lost

As adaptation has a higher cost?

2nd Lever: Business action

But in the absence of a carbon tax

There is no reason to be lax.

Though business doesn’t find it nice

We already have a carbon price

Or rather we seem to have a range

That is ad hoc and very strange.

On coal we have a largish cess.

Our electricity rates are a mess.

Our motor fuels bear excise

With rates that regularly rise.

Climate change is now a curse

It steadily is getting worse.

Technology can save the day.

So far it has turned out that way.

As technology takes a leap

Green energy gets very cheap.

Keen observers quickly saw

That Solar also tracks Moore’s law.

Whether groundnut shell or bagasse

Our India’s full of biomass.

At first we thought we’d have to spend

But that’s not true, for in the end,

The more we thought, the more we slaved

We did invest but we also saved.

And solar is still getting cheaper

And as we do start digging deeper

In India it will hit the goal

Of being cheaper than even coal

In just a handful of years.

Already we and our peers

Are sourcing solar electricity

At lower rates than from the utility.

For quite some time we’ve been extorted

As their finances aren’t still sorted.

A silver lining can be seen,

All this incentivises green.

There are many paths that we can see

For achieving Carbon neutrality.

But the cheapest way is certainly

Through energy efficiency.

In times of plenty it was fine

To overuse and over design!

But now we find we always gain

If we only use our brain.

Real interest rates are very low

And high returns quickly flow

From any energy saving device.

For business this is very nice.

Not only are returns quite brisk

There’s also very little risk.

In India mandated CSR

Can help us go very far.

Multiple benefits is what one sees

With water projects or growing trees.

Good livelihoods are created.

Our carbon emissions are abated.

Trees planted at a river’s source

Maintain the flow throughout its course.

So many benefits we can see:

The preservation of biodiversity,

Now different species can be tried

Useful products can be supplied

Like biomass or edible fruits

And yet the trunk and the roots

Can sequester carbon, clean the air,

A win-win that is very fair.

3rd Lever: Electrification and Transmission

From government, all that is sought

Is steady and robust support

To electrify our transportation

And ensure that the Indian nation

Vigorously does its bit

To efficiently store and transmit

Quite intermittent green energy.

With solar and wind there’s synergy.

Their peaks are not correlated

So storage needs can be abated.

Green energy buyers have been dazed

As wheeling charges have been raised.

Net metering comes at a cost.

Thus all the benefit is lost!

Instead of being incentivised

Green Energy is penalised!

Dear policy makers won’t you please

Let energy move with greater ease

4th Lever: No New Coal Plants

Right now coal still looks cheap

But the environmental cost is steep

Both climate change and air pollution

Show that coal’s not the solution.

Green energy costs will steadily fall

So coal of course is not at all

Reliable for very long.

New projects could go very wrong.

Investing now can’t be a gain

If new projects can’t sustain.

Only fossil fuels with sequestration

Should be the rule throughout our nation.


Q: Are there perceptions that green growth is difficult to achieve and alternatively development cannot be green? What are your views on this, and what is the bargain that India can be making here?

A: No Bargain or Tradeoff

I’ve shown we can decarbonise

While we also monetise.                                

So never fall for either or.

Our hearts and minds demand much more.

Net zero emissions is in sight.

Businesses are seeing the light.

There’s no reason for our Group to fear

We’ll be net zero by next year.

And no there is no major cost

With our initiatives nothing’s lost.

There really is no give and take

We can both eat and have our cake.

All money spent is CSR

Which as I’ve shown can take us far.

So businesses must play a role

By setting an ambitious goal.

They can pay their climate dues

Without anything to lose.


Q: What role can businesses play in creating the demand for green growth and leading on low carbon development practices?

The Role of Business

Businesses can act one by one

But much more can be won

By also acting collectively

And doing so reflectively.


Membership one now foresees

Science-based goals reached very fast.

The energy intensive, expectedly last,

Could manage with setoffs instead.

The others could well forge ahead.

Their partnership with CII

Means many more would get to try.

There is a role in advocacy

With good supportive policy.

A good global carbon price

Would solve the problem in a trice.

And nothing much would be lost,

Indeed there is no net cost.

For going green we miss incentives

At least get rid of disincentives!

And of course it would be great

If all stake holders collaborate

To develop technology that’s green.

We should, hand in hand, plan it

Preserving people, profit and planet.

[Source: Climate Home News]

Good (air quality) news you probably didn’t hear about

A new study in The Lancet has shown that between 2013 and 2017, air pollution in 74 key Chinese cities fell by a third, driven by a 85.4% decline in household air pollution and a 12% decline in PM2.5. As a result, the death rate attributable to air pollution has plummeted by more than 60%, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

(Although – gulp – the average annual population-weighted PM2·5 exposure in China was 52·7 μg/m3 (95% uncertainty interval [UI] 41·0–62·8) in 2017, which is 9% lower than in 1990 (57·8 μg/m3, 45·0–67·0)).

[Source: Future Crunch, 17 Sep 2020]

the new AQI

[Source: (US) National Weather Service Spokane]

Changes in air quality during lockdown in Auckland

This paper presents a case study from Auckland, where traffic flows reduced by 60–80% as a result of a government-led initiative to contain the virus by limiting all transport to only essential services. Ambient pollutant concentrations of NO2, O3, BC, PM2.5, and PM10 are compared between the lockdown period and comparable periods in the historical air pollution record, while taking into account changes in the local meteorology.

This ‘natural experiment’ in source emission reductions had significant but non-linear impacts on air quality. While emission inventories and receptor modelling approaches confirm the dominance of traffic sources for NOx (86%), and BC (72%) across the city, observations suggest a consequent reduction in NO2 of only 34–57% and a reduction in BC of 55–75%. The observed reductions in PM2.5 (still likely to be dominated by traffic emissions), and PM10 (dominated by sea salt, traffic emissions to a lesser extent, and affected by seasonality) were found to be significantly less (8–17% for PM2.5 and 7–20% for PM10).

[Source: Patel H., et al., 2020. Implications for air quality management of changes in air quality during lockdown in Auckland (New Zealand) in response to the 2020 SARS-CoV-2 epidemic. Science of the Total Environment. Vol 746. Dec 2020. 141129. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.141129]