20 January 2006

Swiss Environment Minister, Moritz Leuenberger, has proposed an action plan to reduce exposure to ambient particulate matter. The plan focuses on soot emissions, deemed carcinogenic. A number of proposed measures focus on the control of PM emissions from diesel engines and from wood combustion.

The Swiss Department of Environment (UVEK) estimates that ambient particulate pollution in Switzerland—named the biggest environmental and public health problem—is responsible for 3,700 premature deaths per year and annual extra health costs of SFr4.2 billion ($3.4 billion). In many Swiss cities, especially in winter, ambient particulate levels exceed the air quality standards (the Swiss and EU 24-hour PM10 limit is 50 µg/m3, compared to 150 µg/m3 in the USA). The sources of manmade particulate pollution include the use of mechanical abrasion (56%), diesel engines (17%), wood burning (15%), burning of other fuels (10%), as well as gasoline and natural gas engines (2%).

Out of the nine proposed measures, three apply to the transportation sector:

  • New criteria are to be developed for energy-efficient and low emission light motor vehicles (up to 3.5 tons), based on fuel consumption, PM and CO2 emissions, and noise. These criteria will be a basis for possible cantonal tax programs or driving bans.
  • Diesel buses operated by public transit agencies should be equipped, starting from 2007, with the best available technology for the reduction PM emissions (particle filters or equivalent systems).
  • Since Switzerland transfers the EU emission laws into its national legislation, it will participate in the work of the respective UN groups to develop more stringent emission standards for passenger vehicles and truck engines.

Furthermore, Leuenberger intends to propose a rule to make particulate filters mandatory on all new diesel vehicles.

The particulate filters provisions, especially those for passenger cars, were criticised by Swiss car importers and other related businesses. Forty two percent of cars imported to Switzerland are already fitted with filters, and so the problem will solve itself without the need for regulation, argued Andreas Burgener, head of the car importers association Auto Schweiz.

Source: UVEK