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Good air quality requires better public cooperation

​The national targets for local air quality are exceeded in many areas. In addition, the limit value for nitrogen dioxide is being violated in the largest urban areas. Road traffic is the predominant source of local air pollution. "This is serious because it can cause negative health effects for many and reduced quality of life for particularly vulnerable groups," says Auditor General Per-Kristian Foss.

Published 11/24/2015 1:00 PM

​Document 3:3 (2015-2016) The Office of the Auditor General's investigation of the authorities' efforts to ensure good air quality in urban areas was submitted to the Storting on 24 November 2015.

Particulate matter limits stipulated in the Pollution Regulations are largely adhered to in most municipalities. However, when it comes to the more stringent national targets for particulate matter which were supposed to be achieved by 2010, 11 of 14 municipalities that monitor this are still far off from the targets. Bergen, Drammen, Oslo, Trondheim and Stavanger also have repeatedly violated the Pollution Regulations' limit for nitrogen dioxide.

"These five major municipalities have close to 1.4 million inhabitants. Many may consequently suffer health problems due to prolonged exposure to high levels of both particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide," says Foss.

Local air quality requirements in urban areas and other social considerations such as traffic safety, noise and traffic flow can give rise to difficult goal conflicts. Duties and responsibilities are divided between the health, transport and environment sectors and central and local levels of government, among others.

"This may cause pulverisation of responsibility and an inability to make decisions and take action, says Foss.

As pollution authority, the municipalities shall evaluate and implement necessary measures to reduce pollution levels if they are too high over time. It is serious that the requirement to examine measures has not been followed in many of the affected municipalities. The Norwegian Environment Agency is charged with following up and can make demands concerning municipal assessments.

"The Ministry of Climate and Environment must ensure that the Norwegian Environment Agency is strengthening its guidance and follow-up of the municipalities," says Foss.

The target structure in the area is complex and demanding; limit values and assessment thresholds vary in the Pollution Regulations, national targets and Norwegian Institute of Public Health air quality standards. The targets are in addition only partially comparable, and levels for various types of measures are complicated.

"This is difficult for municipalities to deal with, creating a complex scenario. The target structure in the area should be simplified," says the auditor general.

The Ministry of Climate and Environment has overall responsibility for the national targets, but is dependent on the facilitation of local measures by the Ministry of Transport and Communications, and their adoption by the municipalities.

"The municipalities must get good guidance on possible measures to improve air quality. The municipalities are given responsibility for ensuring that requirements are met, but implementation can be weakened by governmental body review," says Foss.

In their response to the Office of the Auditor General, the Climate and Environment Minister and Transport Minister pointed out that a number of processes have been set in motion to strengthen the work on local air quality and that the work has been assigned high priority in the Government.

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