Decisive impact on international efforts to reduce air pollution
The purpose of research in ASTA was to supporting work to bring about a decline in pollution in Sweden and abroad. The programme focused on acidification, the impact of nitrogen on forest ecosystems, effects of ground-level ozone on vegetation, and long-range transport of particles. Other aims included strengthening and, for the future, safeguarding Swedish expertise for deployment in international negotiations, and attaining a better understanding of the interplay between science and politics. Begun in 1999, ASTA was concluded in 2007. Since then, the research has continued in the Swedish Clean Air Research Program (SCARP), hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency. Several of the research teams that had been funded in ASTA have now also received support in SCARP. The ASTA research teams have also succeeded in obtaining research grants from the EU research budget.
WHAT HAS THE RESEARCH ACHIEVED?
During the programme period, ASTAmade key contributions to the development of international measures to combat transboundary air pollution, for example to the European Commission’s Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution. New ways of thinking have also been included in efforts to implement theinternational Geneva Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP). In addition, the programme contributed to the development of advanced monitoring systems and measuring stations for air pollution.Another area based on ASTA’s research is the development of theoretical models for long-range transport of air pollutants, which is used as support for CLRTAP.
The effects of air pollution on ecosystems are another part of activities in ASTA. There, the research helped to ensure that remediating acidifiedecosystems and combating the impact of nitrogen deposition on biodiversity were incorporated into international efforts to reduceair pollution.
In more general ways, ASTA has helped to strengthen and consolidate Sweden’s position in this research field. The programme has generated a number of new experts in the area, and the experts who preceded them have improved their skills.
A series of scientific articles have been published inScienceand other highly regarded journals, both while the programme was in progress and since it was superseded by SCARP.
WHO HAS BENEFITED FROM THE RESEARCH?
The proficiency developed in ASTA served to assist the work of evaluating the aggregate impact of nitrogen in Europe: the European Nitrogen Assessment (2011). This research has often been used in models that serve to support decision-making, ‘integratedassessment models’, which were developed bythe International Institute for Applied System Analysis (IIASA). Sweden’s negotiators in the EU and UN bodies working to combat air pollutionhave been able to use results from ASTA in negotiations, thereby convincing other countries. For Sweden to be capable of meeting its environmental objectives relating to air pollution, it is crucial for neighbouring countries to reduce their emissions.
ASTA has had a crucial bearing on Sweden’s scope for influencing international negotiation processes. We’re responsible for cutting-edge research, and if you do that it’s easy to convince other countries.
Anna Engleryd, Sweden’s international negotiator for the United NationsEconomic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP).