Levels of sulphur dioxide fell significantly between 2015 and 2016, largely as a result of the United Kingdom shutting down coal-fired power stations or converting them to biomass plants as part of its move to becoming a low-carbon economy.
As of last month, sulphur dioxide emissions fell by 29 per cent year-on-year, while nitrogen oxide levels dropped 10 per cent over the same period, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The recent drop in sulphur dioxide is part of a larger trend: since 1970, levels of sulphur dioxide have fallen 97 per cent, helped along from 2008 by the country’s efforts to comply with stricter European standards through phasing out coal power generation by 2025.
Sulphur dioxide rose in the public’s awareness in the 1960s and 1970s as a main culprit of acid rain, and was the focus of the first international treaty to deal with air pollution on a broad regional basis.
While sulphur dioxide is not defined as a climate warming agent, it is a potent air pollutant that harms respiratory health and causes other health problems by contributing to particulate air pollution.
The U.K. government is also committed to ending the sale of conventional new diesel and petrol cars by 2040 and is due to release a clean-air strategy later this year.
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