International experiences in air pollution management
Introduction: the experience with air management Even in late 1970s, emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere in Europe and the United States remained very high. For instance, in 1978 sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions in Europe stood at 70 million tons (Figure 8.1), almost three times higher than current emissions in the PRC. Not only were emissions very high, but any impartial observer, basing his views on trends in European SO2 emissions from 1945 –78, would have forecasted that emissions would continue to grow. Only the bravest would have suggested that, come 25 years later, emissions of SO2 in Europe would stand at 15 million tons, similar to the level of 1930. Yet this is what happened. In Europe, a mountain of SO2 has disappeared since 1978. The story is the same although less dramatic in the United States – emissions of SO2 in the United States have fallen by about 50 percent since
1990. In fact, the dramatic fall in emissions of SO2 in Europe and the United States is a main inspiration of the now famous Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC), depicting that emissions first rise and then fall as gross domestic product (GDP) per capita grows (Grossman and Krueger 1995). Emissions of most other polluting compounds to air, with the notable exception of carbon dioxide (CO2), have also fallen in Europe and the United States. Meanwhile, emissions of SO2 and many other compounds to air are increasing fast in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Thanks to the double impact of lower emissions in Europe and the United States and higher emissions in the PRC, SO2 emissions in the PRC are now higher than in Europe and the United States combined, see Figure 8.2. Trend extrapolation suggests further growth in the PRC’s emissions, similar to what an impartial European observer would have said in 1978. But the Western experience shows that trends may be broken. This chapter asks what were the reasons for the trend disruption in Europe and the United States? Why did things change so dramatically, and what transpired to make this happen? In order to answer these questions, we examine the experiences of the developed countries in controlling air pollutants over the past 20 years, including:
1 SO2 management in both the United States and the European Union (EU); 2 urban air pollution (particulates and ozone) in the EU; and 3 mercury emissions to air in the United States.