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Breaching emissions limits

Ten EU countries continue to breach National Emission Ceilings Directive limits
Breaching emissions limits

Air pollution from sources such as transport and agriculture is still being emitted above legal limits in 10 European Union (EU) Member States, according to new data published by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Restricting emissions

Under the National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD) (2001/81/EC), EU member states have individual air pollutant emission limits, or ‘ceilings’, restricting emissions for four important air pollutants: nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and ammonia (NH3).

As of 2010, all member states are required to meet their emission ceilings, but preliminary 2014 data and final data for 2010-13 in the EEA’s new briefing ‘NEC Directive reporting status 2015’ show that a number of countries consistently breached their limits for NOx, NMVOCs and NH3 in all these years.

The main reasons are emissions from road transport (NOx) and agriculture (NH3). Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), the harmful component of NOx, directly harms health as high concentrations can cause inflammation of the airways leading to respiratory conditions and cardiovascular disease.

In addition, NOx forms fine particulate matter and ozone in the atmosphere. Both pollutants have adverse effects on human health. NH3, which mainly stems from the use of fertilisers and the handling of animal manure, also forms particulate matter in the atmosphere. Both pollutants have impacts on ecosystems as they contain nitrogen.

In 2014, 10 member states reported emission data under the NECD that were above the ceiling for at least one pollutant.

Germany was the only member state that exceeded three out of its four emission ceilings in 2014 (NOx, NMVOCs and NH3).

Since 2010, 10 member states have persistently exceeded their respective emission ceilings for NOx (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland and Luxembourg), NMVOCs (Denmark, Germany, Ireland and Luxembourg) and NH3 (Austria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain).

The SO2 ceilings emissions were not exceeded by any member state during the period 2010-2014.

The EU-28 as a whole did not exceed its aggregated emission ceilings for any of the four air pollutants in 2014.

Revising the ceiling

A revised National Emission Ceilings Directive was proposed by the European Commission as part of its 2013 Clean Air Policy Programme.

The proposal, which included new 2020 and 2030 reduction commitments for the four currently covered pollutants, as well as new ceilings for two additional pollutants – fine particulate matter (PM2,5) and methane (CH4), is currently being negotiated by the European Parliament and member states under the Dutch EU Presidency.

Click here to read the 2013 Clean Air Policy Programme.

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