The launch of European cooperation for better local air quality

The launch of LIFE CityTRAQ marks the start of an international project involving six European partners working together to improve local air quality using traffic censuses and air quality measurements. The development of a screening and scenario tool should help local governments develop measures to improve local air quality.

The goal of LIFE CityTRAQ is to monitor and improve local air quality in Europe. The six project partners, the City of Antwerp, the City of Bruges, the City of Ghent, Flanders Environment Agency, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) from the Netherlands and the Croatian Meteorological and Hydrological Service (DHMZ) are joining forces to make this project a success. Local citizens and schools are also involved through citizen science to increase knowledge and awareness of air quality.

Development of the screening and scenario tool
The project started in September 2022 and will run until August 2026. CityTRAQ focuses both on detecting poor air quality and simulating the impact of possible solutions. A screening tool measures NO2, PM2.5 and PM10 levels, thus allowing the identification of locations with poor air quality (hotspots). Then, by using a scenario tool, local governments can simulate and calculate the impact of certain traffic measures, such as establishing a car-free street, on air quality.

The project in practice
The three partner cities of Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges are rolling out field pilot projects to investigate the impact of certain measures in their cities. For example, research in Antwerp is focusing on a freight route network and emission-free urban logistics. Bruges is tracking the evolution of air quality throughout the city and Ghent is focusing on a school street, a review of traffic circulation plans and the creation of oxygen districts. Air quality projects are also being launched in the Croatian capital Zagreb, incorporating lessons learned from the pilot projects in Flanders.

Air pollution remains a major environmental problem
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), air pollution remains the largest environmental health risk in Europe. About 75% of the European population lives in a city or area where nitrogen and PM levels are regularly too high. By 2050, that number is expected to rise to 85%. Air pollution has a major impact on our health. Every year 400,000 premature deaths are linked to air pollution and greater vulnerability to COVID-19 is also attributed to poor air. Committing to better air quality could result in 100,000 fewer premature deaths. Nor should the social and economic impact be underestimated. Better air leads to lower health care costs and an estimated 0.5 to 2.5% increase in GDP.