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Emission intensity of manufacturing industries in Europe

Indicator Specificationexpired Created 05 Apr 2013 Published 24 Feb 2014 Last modified 04 Sep 2015, 07:00 PM
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This content has been archived on 03 Mar 2015, reason: Other (New version data-and-maps/indicators/emission-intensity-of-manufacturing-industries-1 was published)
Indicator codes: WREI 003

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)
  • No published assessments


Justification for indicator selection

The manufacturing industries are responsible for large emission loads discharged in water. The manufacture of products results in many and varied emissions, depending on the products being manufactured and the processes and chemicals used. Emissions to water include heavy metals (e.g. cadmium, mercury), organic micropollutants, suspended solids and organic matter., affecting ecological and/or chemical status of water bodies. Over the last 30 years the urban and industrial wastewater treatment has progressively improved and in many parts of Europe a large proportion of the pollutants are today removed (European waters-assessment of status and pressures). However, pollution caused by inadequately treated wastewater is still in some areas an important source of river pollution and an important source for transitional and coastal waters.  Water Framework Directive (WFD) lays down a strategy against pollution of water and requires further specific measures for pollution control and environmental quality standards (EQS). In accordance with WFD Article 4 , Member States should implement the necessary measures with the aim of progressively reducing pollution from priority substances and ceasing or phasing out emissions, discharges and losses of priority hazardous substances.

Consequences of economic activities with regard to water quality and quantity have been analysed under the WFD through the Member States’ River Basin Management Plans. The study of the link between water status (quality and quantity), relevant pressures and their economic driving forces provides important basis for the decision making and prioritization of measures with regard to achieving the objectives of the WFD. Moreover, it can help to indicate whether the economic growth in a particular industry/sector is decoupled from its environmental impact and thus whether the sector movers towards higher resource efficiency. Easily understandable indicators will be necessary to provide signals and measure progress in improving resource efficiency .

Decoupling represents a strategic approach for moving forward a global Green Economy –one that “results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities". The emission of pollutants from point sources (industrial facilities) provides an indication of potential environmental impact on water quality.  Economic growth is defined as the added (monetary) value of all final goods and services produced within a country (or economic sector) in a given period of time, usually a calendar year.

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

The indicator is used to illustrate emission intensity of manufacturing industries expressed as amount of pollutant discharged in water per unit of production of manufacturing industries (expressed as one million Euro gross value added). Furthermore, indicator shows decoupling of economic growth (GVA) from the environmental impact (emission of pollutants).Decoupling indicator displays the percentage of change in emission of pollutants from manufacturing plotted together with the change in the gross value added (GVA) of the manufacturing industry over the same period of time (between 2004-2010). Absolute decoupling occurs when the environmentally relevant variable is stable or decreasing while the economic driving force is growing. Relative decoupling occurs when the growth rate of the emission is positive, but less than the growth rate of the GVA.

In line with Statistical classification of economic activities in the European Community NACE Rev. 2 Section C  (divisions 10-33) the following industries : are considered in the „manufacturing“:”

Division 10: Manufacture of food products

Division 11: Manufacture of beverages

Division 12: Manufacture of tobacco products

Division 13: Manufacture of textiles

Division 14: Manufacture of wearing apparel

Division 15: Manufacture of leather and related products

Division 16: Manufacture of wood and of products of wood and cork, except furniture; manu-

facture of articles of straw and plaiting materials

Division 17: Manufacture of paper and paper products

Division 18: Printing and reproduction of recorded media

Division 19: Manufacture of coke, refined petroleum products

Division 20: Manufacture of chemicals, chemical products

Division 21: Manufacture of basic pharmaceutical products and pharmaceutical preparations

Division 22: Manufacture of rubber and plastic products

Division 23: Manufacture of other non-metallic mineral products

Division 24: Manufacture of basic metals

Division 25: Manufacture of fabricated metal products, except machinery and equipment

Division 26: Manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products

Division 27: Manufacture of electrical equipment

Division 28: Manufacture of machineryand equipment n.e.c.

Division 29: Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers

Division 30: Manufacture of other transport equipment

Division 31: Manufacture of furniture

Division 32: Other manufacturing

Division 33: Repair and installation of machinery and equipment


The following divisions from NACE Rev. 2 Section C were considered for:

  • Food industry: division 10, 11
  • Chemical industry: division 20, groups 20.1-20.6
  • Metal industry:division 24, 25




Emission intensity is expressed in kilograms of pollutant per one million EURO of GVA. Changes in pollutant emissions from manufacturing between 2004-2010 (separately for nutrients and heavy metals) are expressed in %, where the values recorded in 2004 represent 100%. Changes in GVA generated by manufacturing between 2004-2010 are expressed in %, where the values recorded in 2004 represent 100%.

Policy context and targets

Context description

In March 2010, the European Commission issued the European Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth ‘Europe 2020 strategy’ . It highlights – among others - the need of a more resource efficient economy. The“ Flagship initiative” under the Europe 2020 strategy, called “A resource efficient Europe” , establishes resource efficiency as the guiding principle for EU policies on energy, transport, climate change, industry, commodities, agriculture, fisheries, biodiversity and regional development. The Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe defines medium and long term objectives to achieve efficient resource use in the region. Decoupling, in the sense of breaking the linkage between economic growth and resource use, is a central concept of the strategy for making Europe resource efficient.

The 2050 vision and objectives by 2020 are to be addressed in the sector initiatives that shall contribute to the resource-efficient Europe Flagship Initiative (among others e.g. the 7th EU Environmental Action Programme ).


EU wide targets related to emission intensity of manufacturing with regard to pollutants released to water, or decoupling of pollutant emission from economic growth have not yet been set.

More innovative and low-emissions economy is one the main goal set in the Commission's strategy and action plan "Innovating for Sustainable Growth: a Bioeconomy for Europe".  

Related policy documents

  • A resource-efficient Europe
    A resource-efficient Europe – Flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy The flagship initiative for a resource-efficient Europe under the Europe 2020 strategy supports the shift towards a resource-efficient, low-carbon economy to achieve sustainable growth. Natural resources underpin our economy and our quality of life. Continuing our current patterns of resource use is not an option. Increasing resource efficiency is key to securing growth and jobs for Europe. It will bring major economic opportunities, improve productivity, drive down costs and boost competitiveness.  The flagship initiative for a resource-efficient Europe provides a long-term framework for actions in many policy areas, supporting policy agendas for climate change, energy, transport, industry, raw materials, agriculture, fisheries, biodiversity and regional development. This is to increase certainty for investment and innovation and to ensure that all relevant policies factor in resource efficiency in a balanced manner.
  • COM(2010) 2020 final, Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth
    European Commission, 2010. Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. COM(2010) 2020 final. 
  • Decoupling natural resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth
    A Report of the UNEP Working Group on Decoupling to the International Resource Panel
  • European Waters – Assessment of Status and Presures
    This report's results present good and robust European overviews of the data reported by the first RBMPs, and of the ecological status and pressures affecting Europe's waters. Europe's waters are affected by several pressures, including water pollution, water scarcity and floods. Major modifications to water bodies also affect morphology and water flow. To maintain and improve the essential functions of our water ecosystems, we need to manage them well.
  • Innovating for Sustainable Growth: a Bioeconomy for Europe, EC, 2012
  • Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe
    Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe.  COM(2011) 571  
  • Water Framework Directive (WFD) 2000/60/EC
    Water Framework Directive (WFD) 2000/60/EC: Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy.

Key policy question

Is emission to water of nutrients and heavy metals from manufacturing decoupling from economic growth?

Specific policy question

Is emission to water of organic matter from chemical industry in water decoupling from economic growth?

Specific policy question

Is emission to water of heavy metals from metal processing industry in water decoupling from economic growth?

Specific policy question

Is emission to water of nutrients from food industry in water decoupling from economic growth?


Methodology for indicator calculation



Where E is emission of aggregate heavy metals /nutrients into water and Y gross value added in basic prices

Aggregation of nutrient is based on LCA methodology  , where for the conversion of Ntot to Ptot equivalent,
the following equation has been used. Nutrient equivalent (P): N/7.23 + P kg nutrient equivalent (P).

Where N=Ntot emission load and P=Ptot emission load

Aggregation heavy metals is based on absolute sums of kg of pollutants released weighted by factors corresponding to the values of 1/EQS for each pollutant. This weighting was proposed in order to reflect the differences in the environmental impact of particular pollutants.


total metal release (per country, per year)=LCd*1/0,000091+ LNi*1/0,004 + LPb*1/0,0012+ LHg*1/0,00005

EQS used: Cd(0,09 μg/l), Ni (4 μg/l), Pb1,2 μg/l, Hg (0,05 μg/l), (in accordance with the EQS Directive  2013/39/EU (annual average,AA); for Cd within the ranges and for Hg (no AA) as proposed value)  

Total nutrient release (per country, per year)=LN*/7,23+ LP



Methodology for gap filling

Methodology references

  • Environmental Assessment of Products: Volume 2: Scientific background. Hauschild M, Wenzel H (eds) (1998) , Chapman & Hall, London
  • NACE Rev. 2, Statistical classification of economic activit i es in the European Community NACE is the “statistical classification of economic activities in the European Community” and is the subject of legislation at the European Union level, which imposes the use of the classification uniformly within all the Member States. It is a basic element of the international integrated system of economic classifications, which is based on classifications of the UN Statistical Commission (UNSTAT), Eurostat as well as national classifications; all of them strongly related each to the others, allowing the comparability of economic statistics produced worldwide by different institutions.

Data specifications

EEA data references

External data references

Data sources in latest figures


Methodology uncertainty

Limitations of current approach:

  • Emission data used for indicator development includes only data from E-PRTR facilities
  • Only releases from E-PRTR facilities are considered (not transfers into collecting systems)
  • Data on value added is considered for whole manufacturing industry (ie. including also other than E-PRTR facilities).

The concept of decoupling is attractive for its simplicity. Charts illustrating increasing GVA together with decreasing emission load may lead to simplified conclusions. Synthetic decoupling indicators often convey mixed or double messages. In growing economy, relative decoupling will imply that environmental pressures are still rising. If economic activity is falling, relative or even absolute decoupling may not imply a positive development for society as whole. Relationship between economic driving forces and environmental pressures is complex. Most driving forces have multiple environmental effects, and most pressures are generated by multiple driving forces, that are why there is a need to use decoupling indicators within a more complex analytical framework.

Data sets uncertainty

The E-PRTR database  combines data reported under the EPER (between 2001-2004) under the E- PRTR that  builds on the same principles as EPER but goes beyond it, by including reporting on more pollutants from more activities, and includes releases to land, releases from diffuse sources and off-site transfers of wastes and effluents. This may explain differences, between the numbers of facilities, and emission intensities- between 2004 and 2007.

WISE SoE Emissions database data could not be used for the development of the indicators due to the following reasons:

  • differences in data temporal coverage making international comparison impossible 
  • missing attribute specifying the type of industry  of the source of emission


Data on aggregated emissions from industries (all facilities, including the E-PRTR facilities)  as reported under the WISE SoE Emission data flow was used to determine the proportion of emissions  from E-PRTR facilities in total emissions from industries (in terms of metal equivalents). Calculated values of metal equivalents (aggregated value for Ni, Pb, Cd and Hg) were compared.   In Finland, France, Portugal, Spain, Norway and Sweden the total emissions load  reported under WISE SoE Emissions correspond (for 2010) to the load reported under the E-PRTR. The E-PRTR load in  Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Poland and Romania ranged from 8%-80% of the total load of industrial emissions.

Furthermore, the EPRTR derived emission loads in Italy, the Netherlands, Slovenia, United Kingdom, Latvia, Hungary and Slovakia, were much higher than values reported under the WISE SoE Emissions.

The comparison of E-PRTR loads and loads reported under the WISE SoE Emissions reflects wide diversity of the data on industrial emissions, but also raises the issue of the comparability of data on emissions reported under different data flows.

Specific examples of data uncertainties:


In-depth data analysis of emission from Belgian industrial facilities reported in E-PRTR database indicates that significant increase in nutrients emission intensity in the period analysed is most likely caused by an increase  in the industrial activity 8. “Animal and vegetable products from the food and beverage sector” between 2009-2010.   Aggregated discharged load increased from 142 (2) to 2373 (4) t total N and from 24 (2) to 603 (5)t total P . The increase for N is consistent also for 2011 – for P it drops back to 337 (4)  in 2011. Numbers in brackets are corresponding no. of facilities.

Increase in  heavy metals emission from metal industry in 2009 as compared to previous years was checked and confirmed in in-depth data analysis. Furthermore it was found out that the emission of heavy metals from metal industry reported for subsequent year, 2010 dropped (e.g. for lead) by 65%.


Norway:Data from food industry were not included in emissions from manufactuing industries  due to discrepancy between coverage for economic data (GVA) and emission data for facilities where main activity is intensive aquaculture. For similar reasons Norway was not assessed in the specific assessment of emission intensity of food industry. 

Rationale uncertainty

Indicators to measure decoupling of environmental pressure from economic growth, OECD, 2002

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Work description

Short-term: Indicator specification should be amended on the basis of country review. Detailed QA of the emission data , enabling explanation of the outliers. Calculate pollutant load released from industrial facilities that are not reported under the EPRTR

Resource needs

No resource needs have been specified


Not started


2013/12/15 13:00:00 GMT+1

Work description

Long term: Long term: Decomposing the indicator to illustrate the effect of key factors influencing the economic growth of manufacturing sector (factors affecting the GVA), as well the assessment of key factors affecting the emission of pollutants from manufacturing ( material use, technology, innovations, etc.). For the future development of the indicators, only data reported under the E-PRTR (not EPER) should be used, mainly due to differences in numbers of reported facilities under EPER (until 2004) and under the E-PRTR.

Resource needs

No resource needs have been specified


Not started


2014/12/15 00:00:00 GMT+1

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Bo Jacobsen


European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
WREI 003
Version id: 1
Primary theme: Water Water


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Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled once per year


DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Efficiency indicator (Type C - Are we improving?)

Related content

Data references used

Data used

Relevant policy documents

European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100