Air quality in Germany improves in 2020 – not just due to pandemic

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A passenger plane flies in the sky as the Moon is seen in Berlin, Germany, August 23, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
A passenger plane flies in the sky as the Moon is seen in Berlin, Germany, August 23, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

GNA/dpa – Air pollution in German cities declined significantly in 2020, and the reductions were not only due to coronavirus restrictions, according to preliminary data published on Tuesday.

The number of cities that had exceeded an established limit for air pollution levels was the lowest ever recorded, according to the report by the Federal Environmental Authority (UBA).

Only 3 to 4 per cent of the 400 measuring stations that have been analysed so far crossed the yearly average threshold of 40 micrograms of toxic nitrogen dioxide (NO2) per cubic metre, the UBA said.

In 2019, around 21 per cent of measuring stations recorded levels above the threshold.

2020 was also the year with the lowest amount of fine particles reported in the air since measurements began in the late 1990s.

The impact of the coronavirus restrictions played only a relatively small role in the reduction, the UBA said.

Only during the first lockdown in spring did the concentration of NO2, produced by diesel-powered vehicles, decline by 20 to 30 per cent on average. Across the year, however, there was no significant decline in traffic, the report found. Instead, greener vehicles, more slow-traffic zones and the use of green buses contributed significantly to the improved air quality, the UBA said.

Munich and Hamburg were the most polluted cities in 2020, according to the data.

The final evaluation of the data is to be conducted in May, although the UBA suspects the number of cities above the threshold will remain below 10.

In 2019 and 2018, 25 and 57 cities, respectively, crossed the average threshold.

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