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EEA: Air pollution in 10 EU countries still above legal limits; road transport and agriculture

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). The main reasons for the exceedances are emissions from road transport (NOx) and agriculture (NH3).

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), sulfur 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 shows that a number of countries consistently breached their limits for NOx, NMVOCs and NH3 in all these years.

Key findings of the new report:

  • 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.

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

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