EU stays within air pollutant emission limits
The European Environment Agency (EEA) briefing ‘National Emission reduction Commitments (NEC) Directive reporting status 2021’, published yesterday, provides an annual update assessing European Union (EU) Member States’ progress in cutting air pollutant emissions. The briefing shows that while most Member States met their respective limits in 2019, further efforts are needed to achieve the reduction commitments set for the period 2020-29 and for 2030 and onwards.
Based on the latest national air pollutant inventories, all Member States respected their national emission ceilings for nitrogen oxides (NOX), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) and sulphur dioxide (SO2), while four Member States — Croatia, Czechia, Ireland and Spain — exceeded their limit for ammonia (NH3).
The lockdown measures implemented across Europe to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and the subsequent reduced economic activity in 2020 can be expected to have had an impact on emissions of some pollutants. The impact of the measures on emissions in 2020 will only become clear once national air pollutant inventories for 2020 are reported in mid-2022.
Looking forward, nine Member States have already achieved cuts in emissions set for the period 2020-2029 for all five key pollutants, including fine particulate matter (PM2.5). However, to reach the 2030 commitments, all Member States except Estonia need to reduce their NOX emissions, 22 Member States need to reduce NH3 emissions, and 18 Member States need to reduce NMVOCs emissions.
In terms of emissions of PM2.5, — the main pollutant driving premature death and disease from air pollution — EU emissions fell by 29 % from 2005 to 2019. Nevertheless, significant efforts are needed to achieve reduction commitments set for 2030 and onwards for this pollutant. In particular, three Member States — Czechia, Hungary and Romania — will need to reduce their emissions by more than 50 % and 10 Member States by more than 30 %.
Changes in the energy sector will be crucial for meeting the 2020-29 and 2030 reduction commitments for PM2.5, with a focus on reducing the use of biomass and coal in residential heating needed in certain Member States. Ammonia (NH3) — mainly emitted from the agriculture sector, in particular livestock management and the use of fertilisers — also contributes to the formation of PM2.5 in the atmosphere, with further action needed to reduce emissions of NH3 from the sector. Road transport is the principal source of NOX emissions.
Reporting under UNECE Air Convention
Along with the EEA briefing on the NEC Directive, the EEA has also published the report European Union emission inventory report 1990-2019, which looks at air pollutant emissions reported under the UNECE Air Convention. The report shows considerable reductions in the 1990-2019 emissions of five key pollutants: carbon monoxide (CO), NH3, NOX, NMVOCs, and sulphur oxides (SOX). SOX emissions have fallen by 92 % since 1990, as a result of switching from high to low sulphur fuels, the use of emission abatement technologies and increased energy efficiency in industry and in commercial and institutional buildings and households.