EEA-32 emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) have decreased by 66% between 1990 and 2005. In 2005, the most significant source of SO2 emissions was the energy industries sector (41%), followed by emissions occurring from industrial processes (35%) and industrial energy use (13%).
The reduction in emissions since 1990 has been achieved as a result of a combination of measures, including fuel-switching in energy-related sectors away from high sulphur-containing solid and liquid fuels to low sulphur fuels such as natural gas, the fitting of flue gas desulphurisation abatement technology in industrial facilities and the impact of European Community directives relating to the sulphur content of certain liquid fuels.
Thirteen of the EU-27 Member States have already reduced their national SO2 emissions below the level of the emission ceilings set in the National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD), while a number of others are close to meeting their ceilings. However, a small number of Member States still need to make significant further reductions in order to meet their respective ceilings under the NECD.
Environmental context: Sulphur dioxide is emitted when fuels containing sulphur are combusted. It is a pollutant which contributes to acid deposition which in turn can lead to potential changes occurring in soil and water quality. 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. SO2 emission also contributes to formation of particulate matter in the atmosphere, an important air pollutant in terms of its adverse impact on human health.