Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) emissions (APE 004) - Assessment published Jan 2014
Air pollution (Primary topic)
Environment and health
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
- APE 004
Key policy question: What progress is being made in reducing emissions of NMVOCs?
- EEA-33 emissions of non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) have decreased by 57% since 1990. In 2011, the most significant sources of NMVOC emissions were 'Solvent and product use' (43%), comprising activities such as paint application, dry-cleaning and other use of solvents, followed by 'Commercial, institutional and households' (17%).
- The decline in emissions since 1990 has primarily been due to reductions achieved in the road transport sector due to the introduction of vehicle catalytic converters to reduce exhaust emissions, and carbon canisters on petrol cars for evaporative emission control. These reductions have been driven by tighter vehicle emission standards, combined with limits on the maximum volatility of petrol that can be sold in EU Member States, as specified in fuel quality directives. The reductions in NMVOC emissions have been enhanced by the switching from petrol to diesel cars in some EU countries. Reductions have also occurred in the 'Solvents and product use' sector as a result of the introduction of legislative measures limiting the use and emissions of solvents.
- The majority of EU-28 Member States have reduced emissions since 1990 in line with their obligations under the National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD), however 2 Member states have not met their ceilings (3.4%). Emissions in 2011 for the three non-EU countries which have emission ceilings for 2010 set under the UNECE/CLRTAP Gothenburg protocol (Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) were all well below their respective ceilings.
- Environmental context: Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) are a collection of organic compounds that differ widely in their chemical composition but display similar behaviour in the atmosphere. NMVOCs are emitted into the atmosphere from a large number of sources including combustion activities, solvent use and production processes. Biogenic NMVOC are emitted by vegetation, with amounts dependent on the species and on temperature. NMVOCs contribute to the formation of ground-level (tropospheric) ozone, and certain species such as benzene and 1,3 butadiene are directly hazardous to human health. Quantifying the emissions of total NMVOC provides an indicator of the emissions of the most hazardous NMVOCs.
 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 emissions of NMVOCs have decreased by 57% since 1990. Within the EEA-33 group of countries, all have reported lower emissions in 2011 compared to 1990 except Turkey (23% higher in 2011).
The EU-28 Member States have, in general, achieved reductions in emissions in line with their obligations under the National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD), however 2 Member states reported national NMVOC emissions under NECD in 2011 above the level of their emission ceilings set in the NECD. Luxembourg achieved its target in 2010 but emissions have since risen to 3.4% above their ceiling, while emissions in for the year 2011 were just 1.3% over their ceiling.
Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey are not members of the European Union and hence have no emission ceilings set under the NECD. However, 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. All three countries have reported emissions in 2011 that were lower than their respective 2010 Gothenburg Protocol ceilings, and as such have met their Gothenburg Protocol obligations for 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.
Emissions reported for 2011 indicate that the majority of Member States are on track towards meeting their obligations for 2020 emissions under the revised Gothenburg protocol. Six countries reported 2011 emissions higher than the linear path to their 2020 targets, however for two of these the difference was less than 2% of 2005 emissions. Emissions in 2011 in three countries were more than 10% of their 2005 totals above the linear path to 2020 emission reduction targets, and these countries may therefore require significant further measures to be taken before 2020 if they are to achieve the reductions specified in the revised Gothenburg protocol.
Specific policy question: How do different sectors and processes contribute to emissions of NMVOCs?
In 2011, the most significant sources of NMVOC emissions were 'Solvent and product use' (42% of EEA-32 NMVOC emissions), comprising activities such as paint application, dry-cleaning and other use of solvents, 'Commercial, institutional and households' (17%), 'Road transport' (15%) and 'Energy production and distribution' (10%) sectors.
The decline in emissions since 1990 has primarily been due to the significant reduction achieved in the road transport sector, which has been due to the increased penetration rate of three-way catalytic converters (in which NMVOCs are oxidized to CO2 and H2O), and cars fitted with carbon canisters for evaporative emission control in the European vehicle fleet, reflecting introduction of measures such as the Euro vehicle emission standards and EU Fuel Quality Directives. This has been enhanced by the switching from petrol to diesel cars in the fleet in some EU countries. NMVOC emissions from diesel and petrol cars differ due to the different engine characteristics and properties of the fuels, broadly as a result of the lower volatility of diesel fuel. The road transport sector has contributed 52% of the total reduction in NMVOC emissions reported by countries in the EEA-33 since 1990.
Significant reductions have also been achieved in the 'Solvent and product use' sector reflecting, amongst other measures, the introduction and implementation of the Solvent Emissions and Paints Directives. For example, Bulgaria and Switzerland reported a decline in emissions of 98% and 73% from this sector, largely as a result of compliance with the Solvents Directive, which contributed significantly to reducing their national emissions from 1990 to 2011.
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 - Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) emissions (APE 004) - Assessment published Dec 2012
- 21 Dec 2011 - Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) emissions (APE 004) - Assessment published Dec 2011
- 15 Oct 2010 - Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) emissions (APE 004) - Assessment published Oct 2010
- 15 Feb 2010 - EEA-32 Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) emissions (APE 004) - Assessment published Feb 2010
- 11 Aug 2008 - Emission trends of non-methane volatile organic compounds NMVOC
- 20 Oct 2004 - EEA31 NMVOC 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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