Air pollution from sources such as transport and agriculture are being emitted above legal limits in 10 EU Member States, according to data published by the European Environment Agency (EEA).
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 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, published by the EEA on Friday (10 June) suggested that a number of countries consistently breached their limits for NOx, NMVOCs and NH3 in all these years.
According to data published by the EEA – Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain and Denmark have all breached the limit.
Germany is the only country to have breached three out of four of its emission targets in 2014.
Reasons for the breaches include emissions from road transport (NOx) and agriculture (NH3).
NOx directly harms health as high concentrations can cause inflammation of the airways leading to respiratory conditions.
SO2 ceilings emissions were not exceeded by any member state between 2010 and 2014, the data suggests.
The EU as a whole did not exceed its aggregated emission ceilings for any of the four air pollutants in 2014.
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.
Talks were held last week into updates to the legislation, however sources in Brussels claim that the discussions reached an impasse, in part due to intervention from the UK government (see airqualitynews.com).