Air quality plans

Cyclists travelling along the street so fast that they are slightly out of focus. Behind the bicyclist, a tram stop with a person waiting on the bench.  Trees on both sides of the stop. A row of buildings in the background.

Air quality can be improved by lowering the emissions that reduce air quality, influencing the spread of air pollutants and reducing people’s exposure through various means. In accordance with the EU’s air quality legislation, member states have prepared national air pollution control programmes. Finland’s National Air Pollution Control Programme 2030 includes measures to reduce wood burning, traffic and street dust. 

If the air quality limit values set by the EU are exceeded in a municipality, the municipality is obliged to draw up an air quality plan with measures that will allow the municipality to fall below the limit value as soon as possible. In Finland, the City of Helsinki has such a plan, because the annual limit value for nitrogen dioxide has been exceeded in some places on the busy streets of downtown Helsinki. In addition to reducing traffic emissions, Helsinki’s Air Quality Plan for 2017–2024 includes measures to reduce emissions from street dust and wood burning. Helsinki reports on the implementation of the plan annually to the Ministry of the Environment and the Uusimaa ELY Centre.

According to the EU’s air quality legislation, in the event of a sudden deterioration in air quality, cities must take measures to improve the air quality and protect residents. The Helsinki metropolitan area has a joint Air Quality Action Plan for such situations. The plan includes a traffic management plan for air pollution episodes, but it has never had to be implemented in the Helsinki metropolitan area. The regional measures of the Air Quality Action Plan are coordinated by the City of Helsinki.

Measures to promote air protection often also reduce emissions that cause climate change. As a result, measures to promote air protection are frequently included in cities’ climate and environmental programmes and strategies. For example, the use of low-emission vehicles and fuels, as well as the promotion of sustainable modes of transport and low-emission energy production, provide both air quality and climate benefits. Reductions in the emissions from wood burning are sought especially by means of communication and by promoting the development of cleaner fireplaces. Street dust is combated, for example, through active dust suppression and efficient street washing methods.