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Although countless measures have been taken recently on governmental level to reduce air pollution, the population can also do much to improve air quality. With the onset of the winter heating season, the chimneys pour out the harmful material, which causes serious problems in some parts of Hungary. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that 80 percent of domestic airborne dust concentrations come to the Carpathian Basin from Poland and Romania.
Our country is at a disadvantage also due to its geographical location, as it is located in a basin, wind silence is common, which prevents the exchange of air. And with the start of the heating season, the level of air pollution only increases. According to experts, poor quality air is at least as harmful as smoking: it is estimated that approximately 13,000 people die prematurely in Hungary each year as a result of air pollution.
"It is no coincidence that the government considers the reduction of air pollution to be a priority environmental and health goal, and the National Energy Strategy and the National Energy and Climate Plan also deal with the problem," says György Kerekes. According to the head of the MCC Climate Policy Institute, the tightening of the energy standard for newly built properties from 2021 onwards could make a significant contribution to reducing the amount of heating energy required. (The regulation also requires at least 25 percent of energy consumption to be covered from renewable sources.) In recent years, specific government legislative steps (such as a national general ban on burning forest litter) or support programs (heating modernization and energy efficiency tenders) have set the target of reducing emissions of harmful substances.
According to György Kerekes, the population can do a lot to improve air quality so that Hungary would not remain the EU member state with the fourth worst air quality, where air pollution data sometimes exceed even Chinese and Indian data in the winter - as the European Court of Auditors drew attention to this in its previous analysis. According to the head of the Institute of Climate Policy, the biggest problem in the field of air pollution in Hungary in the winter is obsolete heating equipment and the poor quality materials burned in them, which in many cases are nothing but solid waste (rags, various plastics, household waste).
Even on the short run, significant improvements in air quality could be achieved through the use of appropriate firewood (forestry firewood, briquettes or pellets with a maximum moisture content of 15%) and the development of wood burning systems. On the long run, renewable energy produced under domestic conditions or natural gas-based heating modernization, energy optimization and energy efficiency could be the solution, but the amount of particulate matter could already be significantly reduced by providing good quality, dry firewood.
However, neighbouring countries are also responsible for the unfavourable domestic air pollution indicators: according to statistics, almost 80 percent of the concentration of domestic dust is emitted by Polish and Romanian pollutants. In addition to domestic efforts, coordinated policies at the regional level can therefore play an important role on the long run, bringing the countries of the region closer to continuously reducing their own emissions through regional cooperation.