Update of Clean Air Plan

Sustainable improvements in air quality: What is Berlin’s Clean Air Plan?

Straßenbahn, Fahrradfahrer; Photo: eldadcarin / Depositphotos.com
Photo: eldadcarin / Depositphotos.com

For decades now, clean air plans have been an important tool for improving air quality in conurbations. The aim of such plans is to have a strategic approach to identifying and then implementing co-ordinated measures that are able to achieve reductions in all critical air pollutants and that are effective over the long term.

Whilst power stations and coal ovens were the focus of clean air planning in the 1980s and early 1990s, this focus has shifted to motorised traffic since the European limit values for particulate matter (PM1010) came into force in 2005 and those for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in 2010. The reason for this shift is that these limit values are exceeded predominantly on the city’s roads.

In order to stay within these limit values, Berlin created a clean air plan for the period 2005 to 2010. This plan presented a package of measures that was intended to improve air quality in Berlin long term. The most important measure in this first clean air plan was the introduction of the environmental zone.

The update to the plan for the period 2010 to 2017 brought further improvements to air quality in Berlin. To date, a number of measures have been implemented – from diesel exhaust filters, the modernisation of buses and the expansion of public transport services to more cycle paths and zebra crossings. However, despite all these measures it has not been possible to stay within the limit values for nitrogen dioxide. Nor has it been possible to stay within the limit values for particulate matter (PM10) every year. For these reasons, Berlin has to update its clean air plan again and to implement further measures in the next few years to improve air quality in the city.

To enable us to develop effective measures and to update the clean air plan, the current level of air pollution and the sources of this pollution are being analysed. Accordingly, all cases of the limit values being exceeded, the reasons for this and the impacts of the current measures are being evaluated. The basis for this evaluation is the data from BLUME, Berlin’s air quality measuring network, and from the additional measuring stations in the RUBIS network. Furthermore, the emissions from the most important sources in Berlin have to be measured and calculated. To enable us to measure air quality not only where the measuring stations are located but throughout the city, further statistical projections are undertaken to calculate levels of pollution, for example, along Berlin’s main roads and in residential areas of the city. These model calculations also enable us to ascertain the respective contribution of different sources of pollutants to air pollution in individual locations, e.g. along main roads with very poor air quality.

On the basis of these analyses and projections of how air quality in Berlin will change, additional measures are then examined and included in the clean air plan. In this way, a new package of measures can take shape with specific steps as to how levels of local air pollution can be lowered. The areas of action range from urban and transport planning to the supply of heat and hot water, the construction sector and industry. In all of this, the measures are coordinated with further urban development planning activities concerning e.g. residential areas, small business zones and green spaces.

The current revision of the clean air plan for Berlin is intended to achieve a sustainable improvement in air quality in Berlin and, in particular, to help the city to stay within the limit values for nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter.

The route towards a new clean air plan is, therefore, as follows:
  • Evaluate air quality for the base year 2015 using measurements and model calculations
  • Compile emissions from all important sources in a so-called emissions directory
  • Analyse the reasons why limit values are exceeded by looking at emissions and their dispersion in the atmosphere
  • Forecast the future development of air quality up to 2020 and also 2025
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of measures adopted so far
  • Identify measures and evaluate their effectiveness and feasibility
  • Select measures for the clean air plan
Once all these phases have been completed, the Berlin Senate produces a draft clean air plan and presents it to the public. This is then an opportunity for citizens, small business, large companies and professional associations to make observations and register objections. Only after all of this feedback has been carefully examined can the Berlin Senate finalise and approve the clean air plan.