Fine Dust Scourges Most of Italian Urban Centres

Environment - February 3, 2023

The New Legambiente Report Describes a Worrying Pollution Situation in Italian Cities

The Legambiente report on the air quality of Italian urban centres, referring to the data recorded in 2022, highlights important critical issues, especially for the largest centres in the north, with 76% of all Italian cities exceeding the fine dust limits imposed by law from Europe. The dramatic situation of pollution in large population centres, such as Milan, Turin, Modena, Padua and Venice, as well as in many other Italian cities, is also due to the delay in adapting to the new European targets, scheduled for 2030.

Italy will have to commit itself, especially in the next 7 years, to achieving all the objectives against fine dust pollution set by Europe considering, moreover, that these limits will become even stricter in the coming years as hoped by the WHO, to protect the health of citizens. In the main cities of Piedmont, Lombardy and Veneto, the number of PM10 exceedances allowed compared to the norm doubled in the past year.

In addition to the large cities, which have always been affected by pollution, mainly due to overpopulation and the use of vehicles powered by fossil fuels, a large part of small towns has also ended up under the lens of monitoring against fine particles. These are cities in which various industrial plants are concentrated which are still too far from the technological adaptation required by Europe relating to the reduction of particulate matter.

These shortcomings, from the point of view of adjustments, will inevitably lead to Italy’s exposure to health risks and sanctions by the EU. Within the next 7 years, the most polluted Italian cities will have to reduce their concentrations of fine dust by at least 43% and this target is objectively very difficult to achieve without a plan of radical measures which significantly reduce the time necessary for the change and which represent a real restructuring of the Italian anti-pollution structure.

Italy currently has the sad European record of premature deaths due to environmental factors, equal to a fifth of all those recorded in the old continent. It will be necessary to intervene with absolute urgency on the environment and pollution issue, with effective political reforms that form part of a much broader and long-term vision, in relation to the various sources of smog currently present, starting from those of mobility and the heating of buildings, both public and private. There must be important investments related to sustainability, the pedestrianization necessary for the reduction of thermal engine transportation, the renewal of public transport as well as with incentives for the purchase of ecological vehicles such as bicycles or electric vehicles, with reference necessary to the integration of dedicated infrastructures to recharge, throughout the territory.

Legambiente, to run for cover before it’s too late, has proposed a series of interventions to the state which see, for example, the limitations of city traffic, especially in the most central areas, which completely prevent the passage of the most polluting vehicles, as already it happens in some European capitals. Legambiente also proposes an impressive energy redevelopment plan for all public and private buildings, encouraging the conversion of zero-emission buildings, as has already happened with the Superbonus but with some improvements to the programme. Other solutions include the enhancement of public transport and that relating to the Sharing Mobility of purely electric cars. In the coming years, every city will necessarily have to comply with the European guidelines on pollution, also through the imposition of new city speed limits for non-electric vehicles with the hope that, in the near future, we can have completely electrified urban centres and free from the scourge of fine dust.