Air pollution, noise pollution, a negative impact on ecosystems, climate change, and an adverse effect on human health – these are all consequences of global transportation. The “Net4Cities” project coordinated by the Research Institute for Sustainability (RIFS) in Potsdam, which Forschungszentrum Jülich is involved in, is creating the infrastructure to monitor air and noise pollution in eleven European cities in order to collect data assessing its impact on human health. The project helps in the implementation of the zero pollution action plans of the European Union’s Green Deal.
Although traffic-related air pollution has generally been on the decline due to improved fuels and emissions standards, it remains a significant source of poor air quality in urban areas. The transport sector is the only sector in which ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase over the past three decades. In addition, noise, especially from road traffic, affects around 20 % of the EU population.
The damage caused by traffic is particularly high in urban areas with a high population density. The Net4Cities project is therefore developing maps that visualize data on air and noise pollution from more than 30 monitoring stations in eleven European cities (Antwerp, Barcelona, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Heraklion, Limassol, Oslo, Rotterdam, Southampton, Tbilisi, and Zurich) in real time.
The project is focused on pollutants that have hardly been systematically recorded to date, such as ultrafine particulate matter or ammonia. In particular, pollution levels are being recorded at busy roads, ports, and airports. In Düsseldorf, Forschungszentrum Jülich is conducting measurements at three measuring points together with the City of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Airport, and the North Rhine-Westphalia Office of Nature, Environment and Consumer Protection (LANUV). Samples for ozone precursors and greenhouse gases are collected in the various cities and analysed centrally at Jülich. MobiLab, Forschungszentrum Jülich’s mobile measurement laboratory, is also part of the project and will be taking measurements in the Düsseldorf area. However, Net4Cities also incorporates the results of previous and ongoing EU and international analyses. This generates data to support fact-based policy and improves emissions inventories, which are incorporated into atmospheric transport and air quality models, for instance.
The scientists involved in the project are thus providing citizens with a tool to help raise awareness and make decisions with regard to reducing pollution levels. Decision-makers and stakeholders will be closely involved with the Net4Cities project from the outset. Moreover, co-creative processes and other participatory processes will be used as standard in order to achieve maximum acceptance among the target groups concerned.
Net4Cities can be transferred to other cities in Europe
In view of the EU’s overarching zero pollution action plan, the approaches and results of Net4Cities will be easy to scale up. They can later be deployed and used throughout Europe – from a local to a regional level. The results of Net4Cities should lead to harmonized guidelines that enable the standardization of monitoring technologies and networks. This will help to make the challenges of noise and air pollution manageable both today and in the future.
The goal of Net4Cities will be achieved through the following five measures:
Development of fact-based, tailored political solutions to reduce air and noise pollution together with political decision-makers, associations, and interested organizations.
Provision of a new generation of analysis tools for traffic-related air pollution (both exhaust- and non-exhaust-related) and noise pollution, providing real-time information for health studies and policy.
Data collection of (emerging) pollutants and noise in cities at different geographical and climatic locations with differing fleets of vehicles, all of which being allocated to the respective source; modeling applications and improvement of emissions inventories.
Consolidation of the information obtained from analyses in databases at city and national level to assess traffic-related emissions and thus help to comply with limit values and reduce health impacts.
Establishment of Net4Cities Studio with guidelines for analyses of emerging pollutants to help bring about a suitable response to future challenges.
Net4Cities is a Horizon Europe project with a duration of four years (until 2027) and is being provided with € 5 million in funding. The project is being coordinated by the Research Institute for Sustainability – Helmholtz Centre Potsdam (RIFS). There are 18 project partners, one of which is Forschungszentrum Jülich.