EU Member States in breach of emission limits

Data analysis finds 11 EU countries breached at least one of their individual emission limits in 2012

A number of countries in the EU were in breach of emission limits under the National Emissions Ceiling Directive less than two years ago, early analysis of data by the European Environment Agency has shown.

A total of 11 EU Member States breached at least one of their individual emission limits in 2012, which are known as ‘ceilings’ under the Directive. This is compared to 10 member states in 2011.

Early analysis of each of the four ceiling limits — which include sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia, and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) — has found the most commonly breached emission was nitrogen oxide, with nine member states exceeding designated levels.

Road transport in the EU is one of the main factors for emissions of nitrogen oxide, contributing around 40% of total emissions. The analysis found reductions from this sector over the past 20 years ‘have not been as large as originally anticipated’.

The data show that several countries have persistent problems meeting their national emission limits: for example, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg and Spain breached nitrogen oxide ceilings in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Meanwhile, Denmark and Finland have exceeded the ammonia ceilings for three years running, while Luxembourg was the only country to breach two ceilings in 2012 for nitrogen oxide and NMVOC.

But, despite multiple breaches of the ceilings, emissions of all four pollutants have decreased in the EU overall between 2011 and 2012.


Hans Bruyninckx, EEA executive director said: “Air pollution is still a very real problem – just look at the high concentrations of air pollution recently seen across large areas of western Europe.

“We need to improve this situation by making further emissions cuts. While new technologies and practices can help, we also need to encourage individuals to take action, for example by encouraging alternatives to car use.”

A detailed assessment of the data delivered by the Member States will be published by EEA around June 2014.

In December last year the European Commission proposed a new Clean Air Policy Package to ensure countries comply with existing legislation by 2020.

The second aim of the package is to reduce the longer terms impacts of air pollution by revising the Directive with new 2020 and 2030 reduction commitments for the four ceilings — as well as two additional limits for methane and fine particulate matter.


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