The major Italian cities had nitrogen oxide levels that were clearly too high last year, despite the lockdown. This is the conclusion of the environmental organisation Legambiente in its annual report. It calls for diesel vehicles up to Euro 5 to be locked out immediately.
The air pollution in Italy's big cities is alarming. In Rome, an average nitrogen oxide value of 34 μg/m3 was measured last year. In Milan it was as high as 39 μg/m3. These values have now been published in the annual report "Mal'aria di città" by the environmental organisation Legambiente. The values are thus clearly above the limit value of 20 μg/m3 considered harmful to health by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
It is true that there are already environmental zones in Milan and Rome. In Milan, for example, diesel cars up to and including Euro 4 are banned, but the rules are less strict for other types of vehicles - including trucks, which contribute heavily to nitrogen oxide pollution. Euro 4 trucks are still allowed to enter the low emission zone. According to the environmental organisation Legambiente, it is mainly the old diesel vehicles that are responsible for the bad air. In Milan, for example, their share of nitrogen oxide pollution in 2018 was about 30%. The environmental organisation is therefore calling for older diesel vehicles to be banned from the city immediately.
This step towards stricter driving bans has already been agreed between the Italian government and the administration of the Po Valley, where Milan is located. However, it is not yet clear when the stricter regulations will come into force.
However, Milan is already trying to combat air pollution with other means. For example, an anti-smog package has been introduced, which prohibits smoking cigarettes outdoors within 10 metres of other people. Smoking is also now no longer allowed at public transport stops, parks, sports facilities and cemeteries.
In addition, oil-fired heating systems may no longer be newly installed as of this year. From October 2022, these may then generally no longer be used. Wood stoves, such as those used in pizzerias, will have to comply with strict environmental regulations from October 2023.
Milan is therefore well on the way to curbing air pollution. However, it remains to be seen whether it will also lock out the old diesel vehicles and thus make itself unpopular with many owners of these vehicles.