Government to ratify Gothenburg Protocol amendments

The government has taken a step towards ratifying the 2012 amendments to the Gothenburg Protocol, an international agreement to reduce air pollution.

An Explanatory Memorandum signed by the Environment Secretary Michael Gove and the text of the amendment to the Gothenburg Protocol were laid before parliament late last week (17 May).

Amendments to the Gothenburg Protocol were agreed in 2012

Amendments to the Protocol, which were initially agreed by the UN Economic Commission for Europe in May 2012, set targets to be met by 2020 for a reductions of number of major air pollutants.

This includes stricter targets to control sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), Volatile Organic compounds (VOCs) and ammonia (NH3). The revision also makes provision for the control of particulate matter (PM2.5).

Targeted reductions include a commitment to reduce SO2 emissions by 59% below 2005 levels by 2020, NOx by 42%, VOCs by 28%, PM2.5 by 22% and NH3 by 6%.

Clean Air Strategy

Defra is expected to outline further steps as to how it intends to meet these goals in its Clean Air Strategy, to be published for consultation this summer.

The amended Protocol also introduces stricter limit values for emissions from new and existing major stationary sources, such as combustion plants, and iron and steel manufacturing plants.

Michael Gove

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for the Environment. (Picture: Shutterstock)

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove said: “Air pollution remains a significant threat to public health and we are committed to tackling its causes and improving air quality.

“This is why we are signing up to the amended Gothenburg Protocol and will shortly build on our £3.5bn plan to tackle roadside emissions by publishing a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy.”

The UK has been a Party to the Convention, which aims to reduce emissions of transboundary air pollution, since 1982 and ratified the original Protocol in 2005.

It is implemented at EU level through several directives, including the National Emission Ceilings Directives of 2001 and 2016 – which has also been laid before the UK parliament this year.