Ammonia (NH3) emissions (APE 003) - Assessment published Jan 2014
Air pollution (Primary topic)
Environment and health
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
- APE 003
Key policy question: What progress is being made in reducing emissions of NH3?
- EEA-33 emissions of NH3 have declined by 25% between the years 1990 and 2011. Agriculture was responsible for 94% of NH3 emissions in 2011.
- The reduction in emissions within the agricultural sector is primarily due to a reduction in livestock numbers (especially cattle) since 1990, changes in the handling and management of organic manures and from the decreased use of nitrogenous fertilisers. The reductions achieved in the agricultural sector have been marginally offset by the increase in annual emissions over this period in the road-transport sector, and to a lesser extent, the 'Solvent and product use' and 'Non-road transport' sectors.
- All but three of the EU-28 Member States reported 2011 national NH3 emissions that meet the continuing obligation to stay below the 2010 emission ceilings set in the National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD). Emissions in 2011 for one of the three non-EU countries having emission ceilings set under the UNECE/CLRTAP Gothenburg protocol (Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) were also below the level of the respective 2010 ceilings. In 2010 emissions of NH3 in Denmark and Germany were slightly (less than 1%) above their ceiling; in Denmark these have now reduced below their ceiling, however, in Germany they have risen a further 2%.
- Environmental context: NH3 contributes to acid deposition and eutrophication. The subsequent impacts of acid deposition can be significant, including adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems in rivers and lakes, and damage to forests, crops and other vegetation. Eutrophication can lead to severe reductions in water quality with subsequent impacts including decreased biodiversity, changes in species composition and dominance, and toxicity effects. NH3 also contributes to the formation of secondary particulate aerosols, an important air pollutant due to its adverse impacts on human health.
 Emissions data reported by EU Member States under NECD is used for comparison with NECD ceilings, and data reported under CLRTAP is used for all other calculations unless otherwise stated.
EEA-33 ammonia emissions have decreased by 25% between 1990 and 2011.
In general, the EU-28 have made excellent progress in reducing emissions of ammonia and out of the 28 Member States with emission ceilings set under the NECD 24 reported 2011 emissions that were below the level of their respective 2010 ceilings. In order to meet their continuing obligation under the NECD the remaining countries require further reductions in emissions as follows: Croatia 19%, Finland 17%, Spain 7% and Germany 2%. As indicated in Fig. 2, Denmark reported 2011 emissions under CLRTAP that were above the level of their NECD ceiling, however emissions reported under NECD were lower than their 2010 ceiling.
Finland reported emissions for 2011 that were significantly higher than their NECD ceiling and, although emissions reported under CLRTAP reduced by 6% between 1990 and 2000, their emissions have remained largely stable since 2000. Conversely, ammonia emissions in Spain have risen by around 14% since 1990, although a reduction equivalent to 5% of 1990 emissions has been reported from 2000 to 2011.
Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey are not members of the European Union and hence have no emission ceilings set under the NECD. Norway and Switzerland have ratified the UNECE LRTAP Convention's Gothenburg Protocol, requiring them to reduce their emissions to the agreed ceiling specified in the protocol by 2010. Liechtenstein has also signed, but not ratified the protocol. While Switzerland reported 2011 emissions below the level of their 2010 ceiling under the Gothenburg Protocol, emissions in 2011 for Liechtenstein and Norway were above the level of their 2010 ceiling. Norway's emissions have remained fairly constant throughout 1990-2011, whereas Liechtenstein's emissions have risen significantly between 2000 and 2009, however, a 42% reduction in emissions was reported between 2009 and 2011.
The revision of the National Emission Ceilings Directive 2001/81/EC (NECD) is part of the implementation of the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution. The proposal to amend the NECD is still under preparation and should set emission ceilings to be respected by 2020 for the four already regulated substances (NOX, NMVOC, SOX and NH3), as well as for the primary emissions of PM2.5. A revision of the Gothenburg protocol was published in June 2012, and proposed percentage emission reductions from 2005 levels to be met by 2020 for the four already regulated substances and primary emissions of PM2.5. Existing emission ceilings for 2010 have been extended to 2020 such that all countries have additional obligations to maintain emission levels below their 2010 ceilings, or to further reduce emissions if they have not yet met these ceilings.
Fifteen of the EU-28 have already met the 2020 targets proposed under the Gothenburg protocol, and all but six of the remaining countries are on track to reduce emissions to their ceiling by or before 2020. Of these countries, however, only Estonia and Finland reported 2011 emissions which were more than 5% over the linear target path to their 2020 target.
Specific policy question: How do different sectors and processes contribute to emissions of NH3?
The agricultural sector remains the major source of NH3 emissions; despite emissions falling by 26% since 1990, agriculture contributed 96% of total emissions in 1990, and 94% in 2011.
These emissions derive mainly from the decomposition of urea in animal wastes and uric acid in poultry wastes. Emissions depend on the animal species, age, weight, diet, housing systems, waste management and storage techniques. The majority of the reduction in emissions is due to the combination of reduced livestock numbers across Europe (especially cattle) and the lower use of nitrogenous fertilisers. NH3 emissions have also declined in EEA-33 countries outside the European Union between 1990 and 2011. Again, this is primarily due to reductions which have occurred in the agricultural sector as a result of decreasing animal numbers.
Emissions from road transport, though relatively small, have risen from 1990 levels as a result of the increasing use of three-way catalytic converters in the vehicle fleet; these release NH3 as a result of an unwanted reaction involving hydrogen, which reduces NO to NH3. However emissions have fallen since 2000 and are projected to fall in the future as the second generation of catalysts, which emit lower levels of NH3 than the first generation catalysts, penetrate the vehicle fleet.
National Emission Ceilings (NEC) Directive Inventory
provided by Directorate-General for Environment (DG ENV)
National emissions reported to the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention)
provided by United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (Environment and Human Settlements Division, UNECE)
More information about this indicator
See this indicator specification for more details.
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoMartin Adams
EEA Management Plan2013 1.1.2 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
- 20 Dec 2012 - Ammonia (NH3) emissions (APE 003) - Assessment published Dec 2012
- 21 Dec 2011 - Ammonia (NH3) emissions (APE 003) - Assessment published Dec 2011
- 15 Oct 2010 - Ammonia (NH3) emissions (APE 003) - Assessment published Oct 2010
- 15 Feb 2010 - EEA-32 ammonia (NH3) emissions (APE 003) - Assessment published Feb 2010
- 11 Aug 2008 - Emission trends of ammonia NH3
- 11 Oct 2004 - EEA31 NH3 emissions
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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