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Sound and independent information
on the environment

Portugal

Air pollution (Portugal)

Why should we care about this issue

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Air quality is generally good in Portugal, with the exception of some agglomerations in the north and centre regions, Lisbon and the Tagus valley, where ozone and particle (PM10) pollutants represent an atmospheric pollution problem that needs to be tackled.

The Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning has worked extensively to improve air quality within the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA), in partnership with the Regional Coordination and Development Committees (RCDC) on the mainland and the Regional Environment Offices (REO) in the islands, in a joint effort between the various competent institutions in this area.

The state and impacts

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011
 

Air quality evaluation in Portugal is compliant with Community legislation. The results are made available to the public on an on-line database (http://www.qualar.org/) using an air quality index (AQI) with a simple, easy-to-understand classification of air quality.

This index was implemented in 2001 and is calculated by area, using the average of the pollutants measured in the sites, including at least the following pollutants: nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3) and fine or inhalable particles measured as PM10.

In Portugal, the pollutants responsible for low and bad AQI were always PM10 and O3.

  

An analysis was made on the average number of days per site (urban and rural) in which air quality is low or bad according to the AQI, and it was noted that air quality has tended to improve in Portugal from 2005 onwards (Figure 1).

 

However, it should be noted that in urban areas with a higher population density and/or industrial installations nearby, the number of days on which AQI was ’Low‘ or ’Bad‘ remained high, whereas in 2008 there was a notable increase in the number of days on which air quality was ’Very Good‘ compared to previous years, in which this score was hardly ever achieved[1].

 
 

Figure 1 Number of days on which air quality is low or bad (2001-2008) 

Fig. 1 - Number of days on which air quality is low or bad (2001-2008)

Source: APA, 2009

 

The ozone analysis, split between the urban and rural environment, was based on the progression of the average concentration relative to the long-term target by type of site from 2001, and showed values above 120 µg/m3 in both areas, with levels slightly higher at rural sites (Figure 2).

 

Figure 2 Average annual concentrations of tropospheric ozone 

Fig. 2 - Average annual concentrations of tropospheric ozone

Source: APA, 2009

Annual concentrations of PM10 have tended to fall (Figure 3), in line with European levels, showing the effect of legislation limiting emissions of atmospheric pollutants[2].

Figure 3 Average Annual Concentration of PM10 particles by type of Environment/Influence 

Fig. 3 - Average Annual Concentration of PM10 particles by type of Environment/Influence

Source: APA, 2009

 

Average daily PM10 concentrations in Portugal can be caused partly by transboundary movement of particles from natural events, particularly from the Sahara desert or forest fires.

 

Emissions of gases causing eutrophication and acidification phenomena in the atmosphere have fallen in recent years, reflecting Portugal's efforts to control and reduce emissions with a major impact on the natural environment.

 

Figure 4 Relative progression of emissions of acidifying substances with GDP and primary energy consumption 

Fig. 4 - Relative progression of emissions of acidifying substances with GDP and primary energy consumption

Source: APA, 2009; INE, 2009; DGEG, 2009

Figure 5 Aggregate emissions from acidifying and eutrophying pollutants by sector of activity 

Fig. 5 - Aggregate emissions from acidifying and eutrophying pollutants by sector of activity

Source: APA, 2009

 

Sulphur dioxide (SO2) gas is the main cause of soil and water acidification. Nitrogen oxide and ammonia (NOx and NH3) are the principal causes of eutrophication in many land and sea ecosystems, and also increasingly contribute to acidification.

 

A specific indicator called the Acid Equivalent is often used to evaluate the progression of acidifying and eutrophying substances. This indicator makes it possible to aggregate emissions of these pollutants, after each is assigned a specific weight.

 

Figure 6 Aggregate emissions from acidifying and eutrophying pollutants 

Fig. 6 - Aggregate emissions from acidifying and eutrophying pollutants

Source: APA, 2009

 

An analysis of the National Inventory of Atmospheric Pollutant Emissions, published in 2009 and presented to the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP), shows the significant efforts made by Portugal to meet its commitments to reduce emissions of acidifying and eutrophying substances.

In 2007, such emissions fell nearly 25 % in relation to 1990 levels, mainly due to a 42 % reduction in SO2 emissions. This decrease, which was already evident in 2003, can be attributed fundamentally to the obligation to use low-sulphur fuels that came into force that year.

An analysis by type of pollution reveals that in 2007 SO2 and NOx were responsible for 39 % and 38 % of emissions of acidifying substances respectively, with the remainder caused by NH3.

The energy sector accounted for 31 % of acidifying and eutrophying substance emissions in 2007, followed by industry (25 %), agriculture (19 %) and transport (16 %). The waste and energy sectors experienced the most significant reduction in emissions compared to 1990 values.

 


[1] APA (2009). Relatório do Estado do Ambiente 2008. Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente. Amadora.

http://www.apambiente.pt/divulgacao/Publicacoes/REA/Documents/REA%202008_Final.pdf

[2] APA (2008). Relatório do Estado do Ambiente 2007. Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente. Amadora.

http://www.apambiente.pt/divulgacao/Publicacoes/REA/Documents/REA07_06out09.pdf

The key drivers and pressures

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

The year-on-year increase in wealth production slowed down in 2000, although this was not accompanied by a proportional reduction in primary energy consumption. GDP then picked up once again in 2003. By 2007, GDP was 43 % higher than in 1990. Primary energy consumption fell from 2005 onwards, along with tropospheric ozone precursors. Despite everything, energy consumption in 2007 was 44 % higher than in 1990 (Figure 7).

The increase in GDP and primary energy consumption was greater than the increase in the tropospheric ozone precursor emissions indicator, showing a relative dissociation between wealth creation and the negative environmental impacts caused by such emissions (Figure 7).

 

Figure 7 Relative development of the tropospheric ozone precursor emissions with GDP and primary energy consumption 

Fig. 7 - Relative development of the tropospheric ozone precursor emissions with GDP and primary energy consumption

Source: APA, 2009; INE, 2009; DGEG, 2009

 

This dissociation reflects the effort made to reduce these emissions. Nonetheless, it is vital to ensure implementation of the sectoral measures required to meet atmospheric emission reduction targets and to evaluate the impacts of the reduction measures on air quality as regards tropospheric ozone.

Tropospheric ozone is one of the pollutants that have contributed most to worsening air quality. One indicator often used to evaluate the development and trends in emissions of this pollutant is called the Tropospheric Ozone Forming Potential (TOFP). This indicator makes it possible to aggregate different emissions of these gases by attaching a specific weighting factor to them and measuring them in equivalent Non-Methane Volatile Organic Compounds (NMVOC) by mass (Figures 8 and 9).

Figure 8 Aggregate tropospheric ozone precursor emissions by sector of activity 

Fig. 8 - Aggregate tropospheric ozone precursor emissions by sector of activity

Source: APA, 2009

 

TOFP indicator levels in Portugal have fallen in recent years, essentially due to declining NMVOC emissions. The sectors of activity that contributed most to tropospheric ozone precursor emissions in 2007 were industry (40 %) and transport (29 %). In the same year the contribution of industry and the waste sector to the TOFP indicator increased nearly 50 % in relation to 1990 with emissions from the energy and transport sectors falling most against the base year (Figure 9).

 

Figure 9 Aggregate emissions of tropospheric ozone precursors 

Fig. 9 - Aggregate emissions of tropospheric ozone precursors

Source: APA, 2009

 

 

The 2020 outlook

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

The Gothenburg Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone within the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) aims to control and reduce emissions of certain pollutants, for which emission ceilings have been established for 2010: NOx, NH3, NMVOC and SO2. It was ratified by Portugal in 2005.

The emission ceilings (in thousand tonnes per year) established under this Protocol for Portugal are as follows:

Pollutant

Emission levels in 1990

Maximum emission level in 2010

% Reduction in emissions for 2010 (Base: 1990)

SO2

362

170

-53 %

NO2

348

260

-25 %

NH3

98

108

+10 %

NMVOC

640

202

-68 %

 

The National Emission Ceilings Directive obliges Member States to develop a national programme for reductions of emissions of SO2, NOx, NMVOC and NH3. Decree-Law No. 193/2003 of 22 August 2003 set 2010 national emission ceiling targets as follows: 160 kt for SO2, 250 kt for NOx, 180 kt for NMVOC and 90 kt for NH3. The National Emission Ceilings Programme (NECP) was published in December 2002 to identify the measures to enable Portugal to meet the limits laid down by the Directive. The NECP was updated in 2006 and published in the Portuguese Council of Ministers Resolution No. 103/2007 of 6 August 2007.

The 2006 NECP estimates that the ceilings established for emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ammonia (NH3) will be met. 2010 emissions are estimated at 133 kt SO2 (27 kt below the ceiling); 242 kt NOx (8 kt below the ceiling), 69 kt NH3 (21 kt below the ceiling) and 194 kt of non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) (14 kt or 8 % above the ceiling).

NMVOC emissions are forecast to overshoot their established ceiling by 8 %. However, as this value is within the margin of error of the estimates, which are somewhat uncertain, no additional measures are considered necessary to guarantee respect of the ceiling.

Existing and planned responses

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Air quality improvement plans have been drawn up in response to the results of the air quality evaluation, particularly in situations in which limit values are exceeded, and aim to apply sustainable options to achieve levels that guarantee the protection of human health and the environment in general.

Air quality improvement plans were approved in 2008 in the Lisbon and Tagus Valley Region and in the Northern Region in response to PM10 concentrations in excess of the tolerance level. These plans analyse the state of environmental air quality, identify sources of pollution and propose policies and measures to improve the situation by suggesting short-term actions to achieve the objective concerned.

The Portuguese Environment and Health Action Plan (PT-NEHAP 2008-2013), also approved in 2008, aims to improve the efficiency of policies to prevent, control and reduce environmentally-caused health risks, promoting the integration of knowledge and innovation, thereby contributing to the country's economic and social development, with air quality as a priority domain.

In 2004, the publication of the framework regulation, Decree-Law No. 78/2004 of 3 April 2004 on the prevention and control of atmospheric emissions, heralded a new scheme applicable to small facilities subsidiary to the specific legislation resulting from the transposition of Community Directives. These regulations, associated to the National Emission Ceilings Programme (NECP) and the National Emissions Reduction Plan (NERP) from Large Combustion Plants (LCP), led to the necessary actions/measures for implementing a consistent and harmonised strategy to combat atmospheric pollution.

Another fundamental instrument in this sector is the National System of Inventories of Emissions by Sources and Removal by Sinks of Atmospheric Pollutants – NSIESRSAP. This system is coordinated by APA, which is also responsible for drawing up the National Inventory of Emissions by Sources and Removal by Sinks of Atmospheric Pollutants (NIESRSAP) and for sending these to the appropriate Community and international institutions.

The legal framework for integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) has also been updated. This establishes the framework for integrated prevention and control of pollution from certain activities (essentially large industrial activities) and sets measures to prevent or, failing that, to cut emissions of such activities into the air, water or soil, to prevent and control noise and waste production and achieve a high level of protection of the environment as a whole. 

Disclaimer

The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

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