After nearly 30 years as Swedish delegate to the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution, where in recent years he was Chair of the Working Group on Effects, IVL’s Peringe Grennfelt ends his mission.
– In actual fact, my efforts in the field of international air quality work started long before the advent of the Convention, which came into effect in 1979. My first official undertaking was in 1973 when I took part in an expert group within the OECD. We were concerned with photochemical oxidants and our mission was to identify problems in OECD countries and propose methods of dealing with them. There, I demonstrated for the first time that ground-level ozone was not only a big city problem, but also that a high level of ozone could be the result of the long-range transport of air pollutants. This discovery changed the whole focus of our work and the report that we were tasked with writing.
Later on, Peringe Grennfelt became involved in the Convention’s work during an intense and important period of transition when the organization discarded simple protocols and adopted more advanced ones, optimizing operations to achieve specific environmental goals at the lowest possible cost. Above all, the concept of critical load was introduced as an effect parameter to establish necessary measures, boost the commitment of member countries and leverage the reduction of critical loads across Europe in a cost-effective and uniform way.
– The greatest breakthrough, however, was when we discovered that we could factor in multiple substances and effects in the optimization calculations. We showed that all the pieces needed to implement this action strategy were already in place, which enabled IIASA in Austria to develop the optimization model that since then has been the basis for continued measures and precautions both within the convention and the EU.
After the turn of the century, work has proceeded to include the recovery of acidified ecosystems in the raft of actions at our disposal and broadened to take into account intercontinental transport and interaction with climate and climate measures.
However, Peringe will not leave international air quality work completely.
– I remain interested in the synergy between science and policy when it comes to developing effective measures against air pollution, and there are plenty of issues where research can help measures become cost effective.