The air quality in Greece has improved the last decades. The reduction of national emissions of the main pollutants (NOx, SO2, PM2,5, NH3) is significant, mainly due to the cleaner electricity production (decrease of lignite power plants in the overall energy mix, decrease of their emissions due to secondary abatement measures, energy efficiency, RES, cleaner motors for vehicles etc.). The national reduction targets of the NEC Directive for 2020, compared to 2005, have been exceeded for the majority of pollutants as early as in 2016.
As regards the urban air pollution, the evolution of measured concentrations of air pollutants over time shows that there is a downward trend or stabilization tendency, depending on the pollutant. This progress can be attributed to the reduction of pollutant emissions due to measures adopted in the previous decades which mainly concerned the technological upgrading of the passenger car fleet, the mandatory introduction of exhaust emission inspection and certification, the emission control measures from various sources, the use of fuels with higher quality standards/specifications, the expansion of metro lines and the introduction of tram in the public transport, the facilitation of circulation of public transports, the penetration of the natural gas in the domestic, industrial and tertiary sector and the completion of large road traffic projects. However, despite the improvement of the air quality, there are some exceedances of the air quality limit values of certain pollutants, mainly in Athens, as can be seen from the comparison of concentrations of measured pollutants with the applicable air quality limit or target values set out in the European Directives. Meeting European air quality standards should be a priority for forthcoming energy and other environmental policies, also by applying the relevant European legislation. The main characteristics of the air pollution in Greece are summarized per pollutant as follows:
- There is a general decrease of concentrations of the primary air pollutants, such as CO, NO and SO2
- O3 remains almost stable whereas exceedances of limit values are frequent during the warm period of the year mainly in Athens
- PM10 exceed limit values (steady trend over time) in Athens and Thessaloniki, mainly at traffic monitoring stations, with biomass burning for central heating and Saharan dust transport being additional factors
- There is no exceedance of the limit values for PM2,5, CΟ, and SO2 in any monitoring station
- ΝΟ2 exceedances of the limit value are monitored only in Athens in road traffic monitoring stations⇢ Benzene exceeds the limit value in the single monitoring station in downtown Athens
- Heavy metals such as As, Cd. Ni, Pb are below lowest assessment thresholds.
The renewal of car fleet, the upgrading of the energy efficiency of buildings, the further penetration of natural gas in central heating, new metro lines etc. are expected to result in further improvement.