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With culture the air is cleaner?

Umea 2012 Umea 2012

Environmental sustainability is one of the constant themes of the European capitals of culture over the last ten years. We do not know if the ecoc project has actually led to concrete results on this issue.

There are many cities that, both in the candidacy phase and in the capital of culture programs, put the ecological transition and the theme of a green policy in the first place also with regard to the sustainability of events. Even the deserving work that the next cities that want to become the European capital of culture are doing put the environment, sustainability, among the first keywords. If we look at the activities that the cities of Portugal (ecoc2027), France and the Czech Republic (Ecoc2028) are doing, we immediately notice the interest in the environment and in the relationship between environment and city.
It would be interesting to do a thorough study to understand if there are actually any results.
Meanwhile, we see that in the recent European city air quality viewer ranking drawn up by the European Environment Agency which are the top cities in terms of clean air? In first place Umea (Sweden) European capital of culture in 2014. In second, third and fourth place two Portuguese cities, Faro and Funchal, and a Finnish one, Tampere, which had tried to become ecoc, but did not make it.

A few more positions further down and we find another European capital of culture, Tallinn, ecoc 2011. And immediately after that, two other European capitals of culture, Bergen and Reykjavík, both from 2000.
In short, we do not know if this ranking can be directly linked to the work of cities that try to look at culture also through environmental sustainability. And so for the moment we look to this ranking as positive fun. To each, then, his evaluation.

Cities are ranked from the cleanest city to the most polluted, on the basis of average levels of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, over the past two calendar years.

Fine particulate matter is the air pollutant with the highest impact on health in terms of premature death and disease. This tool is focused on long term air quality, as long term exposure to air pollution causes the most serious health effects.

In 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) updated its health-based guidelines for air quality, and recommended a maximum level of 5 μg/m3 for fine particulate matter for long term exposure in order to protect health. In 2008, the European Union (EU) set an annual limit value for fine particulate matter of 25 μg/m3 under policies to deliver clean air in Europe. The Ambient Air quality Directive 2008/50/EC is currently under revision to, among other things, align the EU standards more closely with the WHO recommendations.

The viewer categorises air quality as:

- good for levels of fine particulate matter that do not exceed the annual guideline value of the World Health Organization of 5 μg/m3,
- fair for levels above 5 and not exceeding 10 μg/m3
- moderate for levels above 10 and not exceeding 15 μg/m3;
- poor for levels above 15 and not exceeding 25 μg/m3; and    
- very poor for levels at and above the European Union limit value of 25 μg/m3.

The current version of the viewer includes links to the Urban PM2.5 Atlas produced by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. The Urban PM2.5 Atlas estimates the contribution that different sources of emissions make to the total PM2.5 concentration in 150 European cities. It also includes information about precursors pollutants that contribute to the formation of PM2.5. Additional information on how to read the Urban PM2.5 Atlas pages can be found here.  

All information here.

Serafino Paternoster

Ecocnews Founder, Journalist, repentant jazz guitarist, music critic and film lover.

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