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News 15 September 2022

Breathe Sofia: new initiative to clean the air in Bulgaria’s capital

An ambitious project will improve air quality in Sofia by implementing a low-emission zone for transport and domestic heating.

Today, the City of Sofia launched ‘Breathe Sofia’, an ambitious new project with Clean Air Fund to improve air quality in Bulgaria’s capital.

Sofia is one of the most polluted cities in Bulgaria. Our 2021 research revealed how air pollution impacts the productivity, absenteeism and employee retention of highly-skilled workers in Sofia. In 2019, air pollution cost Sofia’s economy 13.4% of local GDP through reduced labour productivity and absenteeism alone. If left unaddressed, the city stands to lose €15.8 billion in economic impact alone by 2024.

Inspired by projects in London and Warsaw, Breathe Sofia will introduce a low-emission zone for transport and domestic heating. The initiative will:

  • Help build public support for ambitious air quality policies and run campaigns to reach parents and children
  • Provide technical support to design regulations, as well as collect and utilise air quality data in decision making  
  • Share international best practices in setting and enforcing an effective air quality regulatory framework 
  • Revise existing air quality policies, specifically around emissions from household heating and transport.

Clean air is my main priority, and with the support of the Clean Air Fund and the example and experience of cities like London, I hope to start the gradual introduction of low-emission zones for traffic and heating in Sofia. I am convinced that people will appreciate the positive effect, but in addition to expertise, you need good communication and work with people, with communities, because success depends on and affects each one of us.”

Yordanka Fandakova, Mayor of the Metropolitan Municipality of Sofia

London is one of the best examples of the positive effect of the introduction of a low-emission zone for traffic. I am very glad that Sofia is ready to follow this example and that the Clean Air Fund will have the opportunity to support the efforts of the Sofia administration for the gradual successful introduction of the Low Emission Zone to restrict the access of vehicles with high harmful emissions. We will also work with the municipality on measures to phase out the use of wood and coal in household heating.”

Jane Burston, Executive Director at Clean Air Fund

The project will help Sofia implement a low emission zone by the end of the year. Data from Breathe Sofia will be showcased through an open data portal developed with Sofia University.

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Photo: Mayor of Sofia, Yordanka Fandakova, and the Executive Director of Clean Air Fund, Jane Burston, launch Breathe Sofia.