Recent scientific evidence indicates that air pollution is more damaging at lower concentrations than was previously understood. In relation to pollution from traffic sources, the pollutant of greatest concern is Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2). A report from the Environmental Protection Agency, released this week, indicates areas around certain heavily trafficked roads in the Dublin area, including the M50, may have higher levels of NO2 than previously indicated. The report indicates that away from busy roads, levels of NO2 drop significantly and are well beneath the recommended EU limits in many residential areas. Around the M50, the highest concentrations are within 10 metres of the motorway edge, with levels falling to background levels at a distance of 50 to 75 metres.
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is an air pollutant associated with urban areas, strongly linked with traffic emissions and which is known to have detrimental impacts on human health. Diesel vehicles have historically far higher nitrogen dioxide emissions than other combustion engines, especially for older vehicles.
This report underlines the need to implement the Climate Action Plan. The Plan includes a number of actions which will have a significant impact on reducing emissions and improving air quality, including targets for electric vehicle numbers. This work will complement the work already underway in developing a Clean Air Strategy which will provide an overarching policy framework within which clean air policies can be formulated and given effect in a manner consistent with national, EU and international policy considerations and priorities. The Clean Air Strategy will address priority air pollutants in Ireland, including vehicle emissions, in an integrated manner. I intend to publish the Strategy in the coming months.
The European Communities (Environmental Noise) Regulations 2018 provide a common framework to avoid, prevent or reduce, the harmful effects of exposure to environmental noise, including noise emitted by means of road, rail and air traffic.
The Regulations set out a two-stage process for addressing environmental noise. Firstly, noise must be assessed through the preparation of strategic noise maps for areas and infrastructure falling within defined criteria, such as large agglomerations, major roads, railways and airports. Secondly, based on the results of the mapping process, the Regulations require the preparation of noise action plans for each area concerned. The Regulations provide for strategic noise maps and action plans to be made available to the general public.The fundamental objective of action plans is the prevention and reduction of environmental noise.
Primary responsibility for both noise mapping and action planning is assigned to Local Authorities. The Regulations designate the Environmental Protection Agency as the National Authority for the purposes of the Regulations. The Agency's role includes supervisory, advisory and coordination functions in relation to both noise mapping and action planning, as well as reporting requirements for the purpose of the Directive.
Further information on strategic noise maps and action plans is available at the following links:
South Dublin County Council
Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council