Berlin leads fight on air pollution, Rome last

Press Release

[7th September 2011, Brussels] - Berlin, Stockholm and Copenhagen are the leading cities in Europe for combating air pollution according to a ranking of 17 European cities, with Rome, Madrid and London all gaining F grades for their lack of effort to improve air quality.

The city ranking was released today by a coalition of green NGOs [1] to highlight what has been done to improve air quality in western European cities. These cities are meant to follow European limits on the levels of a number of harmful pollutants in our air [2].

Berlin took top spot in the ranking for its efforts to improve air quality. The green groups praised Berlin’s broad strategy to tackle high emitters of dangerous pollutants and reduce car use in the city.

As a result, the groups say Berlin provided a good example of a long-term strategy to take people out of their cars and into public transport and other modes of transport such as cycling and walking.

Runners-up Copenhagen and Stockholm were praised for having the best economic incentives, such as congestion charges for vehicles entering the city centre and parking management to reduce the number of vehicles in the city.

Rome, Milan and Düsseldorf came bottom showing few efforts on any of the nine air quality measures used to rank the cities. The measures were selected based on their potential to reduce emissions of particulate matter and soot from traffic and non-road pollution sources.

London, hosts of next year’s Olympics, Madrid and Brussels also gained F grades.

Bad air quality is a major health problem in most European cities. In the most polluted cities the average life expectancy is reduced by over two years on average. For the whole of the EU, the health cost of bad air quality is estimated to be nearly half a million premature deaths each year. In economic terms, the health damage from air pollution in 2000 was estimated to amount to between €277 and €790 billion for a year.

Visit for more information


Dr. Werner Reh, Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND), Tel: +49 (0)30.27586.435,

Arne Fellermann, Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND), Tel: +49 (0)30.27586.484,

Louise Duprez, European Environmental Bureau, Tel: +32 (0)2289.1307,

Ranking - a quick glance

How it works:

NGOs selected 17 cities according to their similarity in air quality problems, their high pollution levels, their political importance, size, or because they presented good reduction practices.

The ranking has been made according to 10 criteria, including traffic management, modal shift to public sustainable transport modes, technical measures and public information. For each of the criteria, cities have been given a grade and were ranked accordingly.

Cities were judged on their action taken between 2005 and 2010, as 2005 is the date of entry into force of limit values for particulate matter (PM10). This means that cities that have taken most measures before 2005 would not come out so well in this ranking.

With this ranking, NGOs want to stimulate the exchange of knowledge and experiences between cities throughout Europe and to demonstrate that reducing soot from local traffic and meeting air quality standards is perfectly feasible.


[1] The European City Ranking is part of the Soot-free for the Climate! campaign. It has been carried out by Friends of the Earth Germany in cooperation with the European Environmental Bureau.

[2] Directive 2008/50/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe,