Good air quality is critical to our health and the condition of the region's wildlife, habitats and built environment. Sources of emissions to air include energy generators, waste, industry, transport and agriculture.
There are many types of air pollutant, many of which can have a significant impact on the environment and our health. Some can upset the natural balance in the environment whilst others can also contribute to changing global conditions and potentially give rise to dramatic changes in climate and sea level.
The climate is not static and has changed many times in the past as a result of natural events such as volcanic eruptions or natural fluctuations in the climate system itself. For about a thousand years before the Industrial Revolution, the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere remained relatively stable. Since then, the concentration of various greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases, have increased. The amount of carbon dioxide, for example, has increased by more than 30% since pre-industrial times and is still increasing at an unprecedented average rate of 0.4% per year. This is mainly due to the combustion of fossil fuels and deforestation.
To meet its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, the UK has agreed to reduce total greenhouse emissions by 12.5% relative to the base year (1990 for carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide and 1995 for fluorinated compounds) over the period 2008-2012.
Climate, weather and the state of the atmosphere are of great importance to the economic, social and environmental health of the South West. Whether a resident, visitor or business in the region, all are facing the problems posed by living in an increasingly turbulent and variable climate. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most important greenhouse gas, accounting for around 85% of the UK's total emissions in 2006. The vast majority of these emissions came from the burning of fossil fuels, as well as transport, domestic sources and industry. The UK aims to move beyond its Kyoto Protocol target and reduce emissions of CO2 by 20% below 1990 levels by 2010 and to put itself on a path to a 60% reduction by 2050.