Cleaner air and less acidification among proposals for new environmental goals

September 30, 1999

Tighten the limit values for particulates and put more effort into reducing acidification and euthrophication. These are the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency's proposals for how the Government's overall environmental objectives are to be achieved.

The Swedish EPA has the responsibility for developing new intermediate goals under the following overall environmental quality objectives: Clean air, A protective ozone layer, No eutrophication, A balanced marine environment, sustainable coastal areas and archipelagos, Natural acidification only, Flourishing wetlands, Sustainable lakes and watercourses and A magnificent mountain landscape.

"The reports we are now submitting to the Government do not signify the end of the Swedish EPA's involvement in the initiative. On the contrary, it is merely the preface to our future work with the environmental objectives," Hans Wrådhe, the Agency's Project Leader, says.

"The process of developing intermediate goals has been a valuable experience. The dialogues we have had with the other authorities have provided the basis for the sectors in society to take on wider responsibility for the environment. The process has perhaps been just as important as the actual results of the work," he adds.

Clean air

The Swedish EPA presents a number of intermediate goals under the Clean air objective. In ten years' time, nitrogen oxides should not exceed potentially damaging levels. This means that the levels of nitrogen dioxide in some of the busiest streets in the country must drop by 40-60 per cent. The ozone levels in the air must be halved if this environmental quality objective is to be achieved. Since most ground-level ozone comes from the continent, considerable reductions are required internationally.

Very small particles are more damaging to human health than previously believed. Consequently, their levels in air must be reduced far beyond the guideline values recommended in Sweden. Benzene levels also have to fall. Sulphur levels are already quite low.

Increased effort to combat acidification

To achieve the Natural acidification only objective, the number of acidified lakes and stretches of watercourse must be halved in the next ten years. Foreign sources are responsible for most of the acid rain that falls over Sweden. The EU's "ceiling directive" will reduce depositions but not sufficiently.

More international agreement will be necessary to achieve the 50 per cent reduction required to achieve the objective within one generation. In Sweden, sulphur dioxide emissions must drop by 25 per cent, nitrogen oxides by 50 per cent and ammonia by 15 per cent compared to 1995 levels by 2010.

Tackling eutrophication

It is important to cut down the input of nitrogen and phosphorous to land and water from both national and international sources in order to reduce eutrophication. Crucial to cutting deposition to under the critical load is the reduction in the contribution of foreign sources. However, emissions of ammonia and nitrogen oxides must also be reduced inside the country. For lakes, watercourses and coastal waters, domestic measures are the most significant factor. Emissions must be stemmed from agriculture, wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities. Even the impact from fish farming should also be taken into consideration. It may well be difficult to achieve the intermediate goals by 2010 and it will probably take longer to achieve the environmental quality objective, the Swedish EPA fears.

A protective ozone layer

To achieve the overall objective, the Swedish EPA is of the opinion that both the use and emissions of ozone-degradable substances must cease in Sweden within one generation. In addition, international work must be urged on so that emissions of such substances are brought to a halt on a global scale, and that emissions from aeroplanes flying above 10,000 metres do not damage the ozone layer.

Sustainable lakes and watercourses

The Swedish EPA is of the opinion that more lakes and watercourses should be protected. Those that have high natural values should receive long-term protection by 2020. Protection measures for municipal water supplies do not go far enough.

A balanced marine environment, a magnificent mountain environment and flourishing wetlands

Included in the intermediate goals of the Balanced marine environment objective is the preservation of native species and natural habitats. Non-indigenous species or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which can jeopardise biological diversity, should not be introduced. There are major cultural environmental values in coastal areas and in archipelagos that should be preserved and well looked after. For the fishing industry to be sustainable and to avoid unwanted incidental catches of, for example, seals, better rules and equipment are required.

Several measures are needed to protect the unique natural values of the mountain environment. More areas need to be protected, reindeer grazing needs to be adapted to the long-term productive capacity of the land and tourism and other industry must take more responsibility for the environment. In addition, the protection of endangered species must increase and maximum limits must be introduced for noise pollution from engines. Off-road vehicles need to be improved so that they cause less environmental disturbance.

Our different types of wetlands should be well represented in all parts of the country. It is also important to preserve and develop the cultural environments and social values that are present in older, cultivated wetlands. In 20 years, all wetlands listed in the mire protection plan should be protected. In addition, a plan is needed for the preservation of wet forest and a programme of measures for the care of fertile fens.

Swedish Environmental Protection Agency

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