Emissions of the main air pollutants in Europe
- Anthropogenic emissions of the main air pollutants decreased significantly in most EEA-33 member countries between 1990 and 2012:
- Nitrogen oxides (NOX) emissions decreased by 46% (51% in the EU-28);
- Sulphur oxides (SOX) emissions decreased by 75% (84% in the EU-28);
- Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) emissions decreased by 56% (60% in the EU-28);
- Ammonia (NH3) emissions decreased by 24% (28% in the EU-28); and
- Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions decreased by 35% (35% in the EU-28).
- The EU-28 as a whole did not meet its 2010 target to reduce emissions of NOX. A further reduction of 2.2% from the 2010 emissions level is required to meet the interim environmental objectives set in the European Union’s 2001 National Emission Ceiling Directive (NECD).
- The EU-28 met its continuing obligation to maintain emissions of SOX, NH3 and NMVOC below legally binding targets as specified by the NECD. A number of EU Member States reported emissions above their NECD emission ceilings: nine for NOX, three for NH3, and one for NMVOCs. There are no emission ceilings for primary PM2.5.
- Three additional EEA member countries have emission ceilings for 2010 set in the Gothenburg Protocol under the 1979 UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). All three countries met the SOx ceiling. Switzerland also met the ceilings for the other three pollutants. Liechtenstein exceeded the NMVOC ceiling. Norway breached two ceilings, for NH3 and for NOx.
What progress is being made in reducing emissions of the main air pollutants across Europe?
The National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD) and the Gothenburg Protocol under the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention) set emission ceilings for European countries for sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC), and ammonia (NH3). The NECD emission ceilings had to be met by 2010, and maintained at levels lower than the ceilings for all subsequent years. The 2012 amended Gothenburg Protocol sets 2010 ceilings for these four pollutants and for 2020 it also includes ceilings for primary fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions (see indicator Specification for details).
The aim of the NECD and the Gothenburg Protocol is to restrict emissions of air pollutants, also including ozone and particulate matter (PM) precursors or those that contribute to ecosystem acidification and eutrophication. Information on the exceedance of air quality standards for the protection of human health and the exposure of ecosystems to acidification, eutrophication and ozone is available from the EEA indicators CSI004 and CSI005, respectively.
Nitrogen oxides (NOx)
NOx emissions for the EEA-33 and the EU-28 continue to fall, and are about half of their value in 1990. This reduction has primarily been due to the introduction of three way catalytic converters for cars. However the observed emissions reductions from some of the more modern vehicles have not met initial expectations and actual emissions from vehicles (often termed ‘real-world driving emissions’) may exceed those emissions during the test-cycle as specified in the European emission standards for each vehicle type.
Sulphur oxides (SOx)
In 2012, SOx emissions were approximately 15% of their 1990 levels for the EU-28. Emissions continue to fall, and for the EEA-33 they are approaching a quarter of the 1990 emissions. All countries have met their 2010 emission ceiling commitments.
Non-methane volatile compounds (NMVOC)
NMVOC emissions for the EEA-33 and the EU-28 have fallen to less than half their 1990 levels, and nearly all countries have reported emissions below their 2010 emission ceilings.
NH3 emissions have fallen less than those of the other NECD pollutants. They fell by about a quarter from their value in 1990 for both the EEA-33 and the EU-28. The vast majority of countries have reported meeting their NECD 2010 emission ceiling commitments. The NECD does not include a stricter ceiling for environmental objectives, as in the case of the other main air pollutants.
Particulate matter (PM2.5)
Emissions of primary PM2.5 have reduced by about a third for both the EEA-33 and the EU-28 compared to their levels in 1990. More importantly the timeline of emissions reductions shows that the EEA-33 as a whole is on track towards achieving the total reduction target implied by the Gothenburg Protocol. However, country-specific PM2.5 timelines suggest that not all countries are on-track to meet their individual commitments by 2020. These countries may therefore need to implement emissions reduction measures beyond those currently in place.
In 2012, 29 countries reported levels above the Gothenburg Protocol's 2020 NOX ceiling, 14 above the NH3 ceiling, 21 above the NMVOCc ceiling, 15 above the SO2 ceiling and 23 above the PM2.5 ceiling.
How do different sectors and processes contribute to emissions of the main air pollutants?
European legal instruments address directly and indirectly the mitigation of air pollutant emissions from specific source sectors (for details see Indicator Specification).
The newer Member States of the European Union have, in a number of cases, also undergone major economic structural changes since the early 1990s. This has led to a general decline in some activities that made significant contributions to national air pollutant emissions (e.g. heavy industry) and the closure of older, less efficient, power plants. There has also been a modernisation of the road vehicle fleet, introducing more vehicles with improved emissions control.
Sulphur oxides (SOx)
Emissions of SOx are dominated by emissions from the 'Energy production and distribution' sector, which typically accounts for nearly 60% of the total emissions from the EEA-33. This source has also been responsible for the largest emissions reductions since 1990.
Stationary Combustion: Substantial SOx emissions reductions have been made across a number of sectors. The three largest sectors ('Energy production and distribution', 'Energy use in industry' and 'Commercial, institutional and households') have all reduced by 60% or more. However, despite large reductions, the 'Energy production and distribution' sector (encompassing activities such as power and heat generation) still remains the most significant source of SOx in the EEA-33 region, contributing over half of the current total of SOx emissions.
Shipping: Across Europe there is also an increasing awareness of the contribution made to SOx emissions by national and international ship traffic, and especially, whilst at berth, the contribution to air pollution in nearby urban areas (a more detailed discussion of this issue is contained in the TERM indicator fact sheet TERM03 - Transport emissions of air pollutants).
A combination of measures has led to the reductions in SOx emissions:
- Fuel switching: There have been substantial changes from high-sulphur solid (e.g. coal) and liquid (e.g. heavy fuel oil) fuels to low sulphur fuels (such as natural gas) for power and heat production purposes within the energy, industry and domestic sectors.
- Abatement equipment: Where high-sulphur fuels are used, flue gas desulphurisation equipment is now installed in new industrial facilities, and has also been retro-fitted to existing facilities.
- Improvements in energy efficiency: Improvements in energy efficiency have brought about decreases in the demand for energy, which has reduced associated emissions.
- Sulphur content of fuel: The implementation of several directives within the EU limiting the sulphur content of transport fuel has also contributed to the decrease.
Nitrogen oxides (NOx)
Emissions from 'Road Transport' and 'Non-road Transport' combine to account for almost half of the current NOx emissions in the EEA-33.
Road Transport: Since 1990, a considerable reduction in NOx and other ozone precursor pollutants has occurred in the road transport sector, despite the general increase in transport activity within this sector over the period. This sector alone has contributed to over 40% of the total NOx reduction. The emissions reductions have primarily been achieved as a result of fitting three way catalytic converters for petrol-fuelled cars (driven by the legislative Euro standards11).
Although the largest emissions reductions since 1990, in absolute terms, have occurred in the road transport sector, ambient urban concentrations of NO2 in EU-28 countries in recent years have not fallen by as much as reported emissions. Disparities between trends in NOx emissions and ambient NO2 concentrations (see CSI004) is due in part to the increased penetration of diesel vehicles, and the ‘real-world’ emissions performance of modern diesel vehicles not showing the improvements that were initially suggested by the test cycle emissions factors used in emission inventories – although this is now being addressed in national emissions inventories. It is also due to the increased proportion of NOx emitted directly as NO2 from the exhausts of more modern diesel vehicles, which use catalyst systems for controlling emissions, particularly of particulate matter.
Energy Production and Energy Use in Industry: Emissions of NOx have also declined in the 'Energy production and distribution' sector, and current emissions are approximately half of those in 1990. Furthermore, there have been substantial reductions in the emissions from ‘Energy use in industry’.
These reductions have been achieved through the implementation of measures such as combustion modification (for example the use of low NOx burners), the introduction of flue-gas abatement techniques and fuel-switching from coal to gas. One of the most common forms of combustion modification is to use low NOx burners, which typically can reduce NOx emissions by up to 40%. Flue gas treatment techniques (such as NOx scrubbers, selective catalytic or non-catalytic reduction techniques, i.e. SCR and SNCR) can also be used to remove NOx from the flue gases. Emissions of NOx are higher from coal-fired power plants than from gas-fired plants as the coal contains significant amounts of nitrogen (unlike gas).
Shipping: There is an increasing focus on the increasing relative contribution made to NOx pollutant emissions by national and international ship traffic (a more detailed discussion of this issue is contained in the TERM indicator fact sheet TERM03 - Transport emissions of air pollutants).
Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC)
Solvent and Product Use: The largest source of current NMVOC emissions is 'Solvent and product use' (approximately 40% of the EEA-33 emissions total). Emissions have been reduced to less than two thirds of those in 1990. Important EU regulatory measures - the Solvent Emissions Directive6 and the Paints Directive7 -were introduced and have reduced the solvent content of products and reduced emissions from industries using solvents.
Road Transport and Non-road Transport: Emissions from 'Road Transport' and 'Non-road Transport' combine to contribute approximately 15% of the total NMVOC emissions. Emissions from the ‘Commercial, Institutional and Households’ sectors make a similar contribution to the total.
Since 1990, a considerable part of the reduction of ozone precursor pollutant emissions (here NMVOC and NOx) has occurred in the road transport sector, despite the general increase in transport activity within this sector over the period. Road transport alone has contributed half of the total NMVOC reduction since 1990. These emissions reductions have primarily been achieved as a result of fitting three way catalytic converters for petrol-fuelled cars (driven by the legislative Euro standards11).
Agriculture: Agriculture dominates emissions of NH3, they amount to 95% of total emissions in the EEA-33 region. Emissions primarily arise 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 liquid manure storage techniques.
Emissions of NH3 have reduced by approximately 30% since 1990, due to changes in the agriculture sector. These have included a reduction in livestock numbers (especially cattle), and changes in the handling and management of both organic manure and synthetic fertilisers.
Fine particulate matter (PM2.5)
Commercial, Institutional and Households: Emissions from the ‘Commercial, Institutional and Households’ sectors contribute over half of the current primary PM2.5 emissions for the EEA-33. Within this sector, emissions are almost exclusively from households (over 95%). Emissions from Turkey show an order of magnitude increase from 2011 to 2012. Excepting this change, current emissions are lower than those in 1990 (by nearly 10%). However the last several years have shown a general trend of increasing emissions from 2007 onwards, and emissions of PM2.5 from wood burning are high compared to most other fuels.
Energy Production and Energy Use in Industry: These sources only account for a combined contribution current EEA-33 emissions of approximately 15%, but have been responsible for the largest absolute decreases in emissions since 1990. They account for half of the emissions reductions since 1990. This reflects several changes in the electricity generating and heavy industrial sectors. Fuel switching away from coal has reduced emissions of PM2.5, and the introduction of abatement equipment such as electrostatic precipitators also acts to significantly reduce the emissions of PM2.5.
Road Transport: Emissions from road transport contribute approximately 15% of the PM2.5 total emission in the EEA-33, but account for nearly a quarter of the reduction in total EEA-33 emissions since 1990. This is a reflection of the improved emissions control technologies that have been introduced, particularly for diesel vehicles.
Indicator specification and metadata
This indicator tracks trends since 1990 in anthropogenic emissions of the main air pollutants - nitrogen oxides (NOX), ammonia (NH3), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and volatile compounds (NMVOC). The indicator further tracks trends since 2000 in anthropogenic emissions of particulate matter with a diameter up to 2.5 μm (PM2.5) emitted directly into the air (primary PM). All named pollutants have direct or indirect negative effects on human health, vegetation and ecosystems.
The indicator also provides information on emissions by sector, addressing the following source aggregations:
- Energy production and distribution;
- Energy use in industry;
- Industrial processes;
- Road transport;
- Non-road transport;
- Commercial, institutional and households;
- Solvent and product use;
The geographical coverage is the EU-28 and EEA-33 countries. The EEA-33 country grouping includes countries of the EU-28 (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) plus the European Free Trade Association (EFTA-4) countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) and Turkey.
The temporal coverage is 1990-2013 (most recent year with officially reported emissions inventories; EEA, 2015b).
The total emissions per country are given in gigagrams (Gg; 1000 tonnes). The aggregated sector contributions for the emissions of each main pollutant are given in percent (%).
Policy context and targets
Current EU air pollution policy is underpinned by the 2005 Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution (TSAP) (EC, 2005) for achieving improvements in 2020 relative to the situation in 2000, with concrete objectives concerning impacts on human health and the environment. The TSAP also established which European legislation and measures are needed to ensure progress towards the long-term goal of the Sixth Environment Action Programme (6EAP; EC, 2002) (2002 to 2012) to further reduce air pollution and its impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity by 2020, i.e. attain 'levels of air quality that do not give rise to significant negative impacts on, and risks to, human health and the environment'. This goal has been reinforced in the Seventh EAP (7EAP), which will run until 2020 (EU, 2013). To move towards achieving the TSAP objectives, EU air pollution legislation has followed a twin-track approach of implementing both emissions mitigation controls and air‑quality standards. A new strategy, the Clean Air Programme for Europe, was proposed by the European Commission at the end of 2013 (EU, 2013). The status in November 2015 is that a Commission proposal for a revised NECD is being reviewed by the European Parliament and the Council.
Internationally, the 1979 United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Geneva Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention) (UNECE, 1979) was a first step to address air pollution related impacts on health and the environment. A centrepiece of the convention is the 1999 ‘Gothenburg Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone’, subsequently amended in 2012 (UNECE, 2012). The amended protocol sets national ceilings (limits) for the emission of the main air pollutants sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX), ammonia (NH3) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC). It also includes ceilings for PM2.5 emissions, while the revision of the NEC Directive proposed by the European Commission (EC) in 2013 includes ceilings for emissions of PM2.5 and CH4 (the latter is both an ozone precursor and a greenhouse gas). Under the protocol, the critical loads concept was established as a tool able to inform political discussions concerning damage to sensitive ecosystems (see CSI 005). Critical ozone levels (concentrations) for vegetation were also defined under the LRTAP Convention.
The Gothenburg Protocol was followed in 2001 by the EU's National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD) (EU, 2001). This directive introduced legally binding national emissions limits for four main air pollutants, sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX), ammonia (NH3) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC). The directive requires EU Member States to have met emissions ceilings by 2010 and in the years thereafter. Around half of all Member States missed at least one of their ceilings by 2010, while the number was eleven by 2012 (EEA, 2014b). A revision of the NECD is part of the Clean Air Programme for Europe (EU, 2013b) mentioned above. The goal is compliance with the amended Gothenburg Protocol by 2020, followed by more ambitious reductions from 2030 onwards. The human health and environmental objectives defined in the NEC Directive, the Gothenburg Protocol and the EU’s Air Quality Directive (EU, 2008a) are addressed by the CSI004 and CSI005.
Regulation addressing ambient air concentrations
The European directives currently regulating ambient air concentrations of the main pollutants are designed to avoid, prevent or reduce the harmful effects of air pollutants on human health and the environment by implementing limit or target values for ambient concentrations of air pollutants. They comprise:
- Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe, which regulates ambient air concentrations of SO2, NO2 and other nitrogen oxides, PM10 and PM2.5, lead, benzene (C6H6), carbon monoxide (CO), and ozone (O3) (EU, 2008a);
- Directive 2004/107/EC relating to arsenic, cadmium, mercury, nickel and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in ambient air (EU, 2004).
In the case of non-compliance with the air quality limit and target values stipulated in European legislation, air quality management plans must be developed and implemented in the areas where exceedances occur. The plans aim to bring concentrations of air pollutants to levels below the limit and target values. To ensure overall coherence, and consistency between different policies, air quality plans should be consistent (where feasible) and integrated with plans and programmes in line with the directives regulating air pollutant emissions.
Legal instruments at European level addressing emissions directly or indirectly
Source-specific EU legislation focuses on industrial emissions, road and off-road vehicle emissions, fuel quality standards, etc. by setting emissions standards, requiring the use of the best-available technology, or setting requirements on fuel composition. In addition, several legal instruments are used to reduce environmental impacts from different activities or to promote environmentally friendly behaviour, and these also contribute indirectly to reduce air pollution:
End-of-pipe control in industrial installations:
- Directive 2001/80/EC on the limitation of emissions of certain pollutants into the air from large combustion plants (the LCP Directive; EC, 2001). The overall aim of the LCP Directive is to reduce emissions of acidifying pollutants, particulate matter, and ozone precursors. The directive addresses emissions from large combustion plants - those whose rated thermal input is equal to or greater than 50 MW.
- Directive 2010/75/EU on industrial emissions (integrated pollution prevention and control) (EU, 2010), which targets certain industrial, agricultural, and waste treatment installations.
Emissions standards for cars:
- The Euro Regulations set standards for road vehicle emissions. The Euro 5 and 6 standards are set in Regulations (EC) No 692/2008 (EU, 2008b) and No 595/2009 (EU, 2009a). The Communication CARS 2020 (EC, 2012) sets out a timetable for implementation of the Euro 6 vehicle standards in real-world driving conditions, and for the revision of the non-road Mobile Machinery legislation.
Handling and storage:
- Directive 94/63/EC on the control of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions resulting from the storage of petrol and its distribution from terminals to service stations (EU, 1994) and Directive 2009/126/EC on Stage II petrol vapour recovery during refuelling of motor vehicles at service stations (EU, 2009b).
- Directive 1999/13/EC on the limitation of emissions of VOCs due to the use of organic solvents in certain activities and installations (EU, 1999a).
- Directive 2012/33/EU (EU, 2012) amending Directive 1999/32/EC as regards the sulphur content of marine fuels, Directive 1999/32/EC on the reduction of sulphur content of certain liquid fuels (EU, 1999b), and Directive 2003/17/EC (amending Directive 98/70/EC) relating to the quality of petrol and diesel fuels (EU, 2003a).
- The Marine Pollution Convention, MARPOL73/78 (IMO, 1973), which is the main international convention on preventing ships polluting due to operational or accidental causes. Annex VI sets limits on emissions of sulphur oxides (SOX), NOX, VOC and PM in ship exhausts, and prohibits deliberate emissions of ozone-depleting substances.
- For international shipping, tighter shipping fuel standards and emissions standards at IMO/MARPOL level resulted in the recent revision of the Sulphur Content of Fuel Directive (adopted as 2012/33/EU; EU, 2012).
In addition to the policy instruments outlined above, there are several EU directives that also contribute indirectly to efforts to minimise air pollution: they are intended to reduce environmental impacts, including on climate change, and/or to promote environmentally friendly behaviour. Examples are as follows.
- The Nitrates Directive, i.e. Directive 91/676/EEC concerning the protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources (EU, 1991). In particular, the implementation of agricultural practices that limit fertiliser application and prevent nitrate losses helps to reduce agricultural emissions of nitrogen compounds to air.
- The Energy Taxation Directive, i.e. Directive 2003/96/EC restructuring the Community framework for the taxation of energy products and electricity (EU, 2003b). This establishes minimum taxes for motor fuels, heating fuels and electricity, depending on the energy content of the product and the amount of CO2 it emits. It aims to promote energy efficiency and less‑polluting energy products.
- The Ecodesign Directive, i.e. Directive 2009/125/EC establishing a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-related products, provides consistent EU-wide rules for improving the environmental performance of energy-related products through ecodesign (EU, 2009). This should benefit both businesses and consumers by enhancing product quality, achieving energy savings and thereby increasing environmental protection. Energy-related products (the use of which impacts energy consumption) include products that use, generate, transfer or measure energy (electricity, gas and fossil fuel). This includes boilers, computers, televisions, transformers, industrial fans and industrial furnaces. Other energy-related products do not use energy, but do have an impact on energy, and can therefore contribute to related savings, such as windows, insulation material, shower heads and taps.
- The Ecodesign Directive is complemented and supported by the Energy Labelling Directive (EU, 2010b), and Directive 2006/32/EC on energy end-use efficiency and energy (EU, 2006).
The Clean Air Policy Package
The new Clean Air Policy Package proposed by the European Commission (EC) in 2013 updates existing legislation that controls harmful emissions from industry, traffic, energy plants and agriculture, with a view to reduce their impact on human health and the environment (EC, 2013). The package has a number of components, including the following.
- A new clean air programme for Europe, with measures to ensure that existing targets are met in the short term, and new air-quality objectives for the period up to 2030. The package also includes support measures to help cut air pollution, with a focus on improving air quality in cities, supporting research and innovation, and promoting international cooperation.
- A revised NEC Directive with stricter national emissions ceilings for six main pollutants (including primary PM2.5 emissions), and provisions for black carbon (BC), which also help to mitigate climate change.
- A proposal for a new directive to reduce pollution from medium-sized combustion installations of between 1 thermal megawatt (MWth) and 50 MWth, such as energy plants for street blocks or large buildings, and small industry installations.
National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD) 2001/81/EC
The NEC Directive (EU, 2001) sets pollutant-specific and legally binding emissions ceilings for nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and ammonia (NH3) for each EU Member State. The directive requires Member States to have met the ceilings and interim environmental objectives by 2010 and in the years thereafter (EEA, 2014a). The directive sets specific environmental objectives addressing acidification and eutrophication impacts on ecosystems and the harmful effects of ozone on vegetation and human health (see CSI 005).
UNECE CLRTAP Gothenburg Protocol (1999; amended in 2012)
The amended Gothenburg Protocol sets national ceilings (limits) for the emission of the main air pollutants sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX), ammonia (NH3), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) and primary PM2.5 emissions (UNECE, 2012). The EU as a whole has ratified the protocol, and reports EU emissions to the UNECE ((EEA, 2014b).
The target under the amended protocol (UNECE, 2012) is that in the long term, and in a stepwise approach, taking into account advances in scientific knowledge, atmospheric depositions or concentrations do not exceed critical loads of the nutrient nitrogen (see CSI 005). Critical levels for the protection of crops (AOT40c) and for the protection of forests (AOT40f) have also been defined under the LRTAP Convention, where the critical level for crops is consistent with the EU long-term objective for vegetation (see CSI 005).
Related policy documents
6th Environmental Action Programme
Decision No 1600/2002/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 July 2002 laying down the Sixth Community Environment Action Programme (OJ L 242, 10.9.2002, pp. 1–15).
7th Environmental Action Programme
DECISION No 1386/2013/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 20 November 2013 on a General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’
A Clean Air Programme for Europe
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - "A Clean Air Programme for Europe", COM(2013) 918 final
Directive 2008/50/EC, air quality
Directive 2008/50/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe.
Gothenburg Protocol (LRTAP Convention)
1999 Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone to the Convention on Long range Transboundary Air Pollution, as amended on 4 May 2012.
UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution
UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution.
Methodology for indicator calculation
This indicator is based on officially reported national total and sectoral emissions to the EEA and UNECE/EMEP (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe/Co-operative programme for monitoring and evaluation of the long-range transmission of air pollutants in Europe) Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention), submission 2012. For the EU-28 Member States, the data used is consistent with the emissions data reported by the EU in its annual submission to the LRTAP Convention.
Recommended methodologies for emissions inventory estimation are compiled in the EMEP/EEA Air Pollutant Emission Inventory Guidebook (EMEP/EEA, 2013). Base data is available from the EEA Data Service and the EMEP web site (Centre on Emission Inventories and Projections, CEIP). Where necessary, gaps in reported data are filled by the European Topic Centre/Air and Climate Change using simple interpolation techniques (see below). The final gap-filled data used in this indicator is available from the EEA’s LRTAP data viewer.
Base data, reported in the UNECE/EMEP Nomenclature for Reporting (NFR) sector format, is aggregated into the following EEA sector codes to obtain a consistent reporting format across all countries and pollutants:
- Energy production and distribution: emissions from public heat and electricity generation, oil refining, production of solid fuels, extraction and distribution of solid fossil fuels and geothermal energy;
- Energy use in industry: emissions from combustion processes used in the manufacturing industry including boilers, gas turbines and stationary engines;
- Industrial processes: emissions derived from non-combustion related processes such as the production of minerals, chemicals and metal production;
- Road transport: light and heavy duty vehicles, passenger cars and motorcycles;
- Non-road transport: railways, domestic shipping, certain aircraft movements, and non-road mobile machinery used in agriculture and forestry;
- Commercial, institutional and households: emissions principally occurring from fuel combustion in the services and household sectors;
- Solvent and product use: non-combustion related emissions mainly in the services and household sectors including activities such as paint application, dry-cleaning and other use of solvents;
- Agriculture: manure management, fertiliser application, field-burning of agricultural wastes;
- Waste: incineration, waste-water management;
- Other: emissions included in national totals for the entire territory not allocated to any other sector
The following table shows the conversion of Nomenclature for Reporting (NFR14) sector codes used for reporting by countries into EEA sector codes:
Energy production and distribution
1A1, 1A3e, 1B
Energy use in industry
Non-road transport (non-road mobile machinery)
1A3 (exl 1A3b)
Solvent and product use
2D3a, 2D3b, 2D3e, 2D3f, 2D3g, 2D3h, 2D3i, 2G
Commercial, institutional and households
1A4ai, 1A4aii, 1A4bi, 1A4bii, 1A4ci, 1A4cii, 1A5a, 1A5b
Methodology for gap filling
An improved gap-filling methodology was implemented in 2010 that enables a complete time series trend for the main air pollutants (eg NOX, SOX, NMVOC, NH3 and CO) to be compiled. In cases where countries did not report emissions for any year, it meant that gap-filling could not be applied. For these pollutants, therefore, the aggregated data is not yet complete and is likely to underestimate true emissions. Further methodological details of the gap-filling procedure are provided in section 1.4.2 Data gaps and gap-filling of the European Union emission inventory report 1990–2009 under the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) (EEA, 2011).
- EEA, 2011 European Union emission inventory report 1990 — 2013 under the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP). EEA technical report No 9/2011. Copenhagen.
- • EMEP/EEA, 2013 EMEP/EEA Air Pollutant Emission Inventory Guidebook.
- EMEP, 2010 Transboundary, acidification, eutrophication and ground level ozone in Europe in 2008 Estimated dispersion of acidifying and eutrophying compounds and comparison with observations.
The use of gap-filling in the case of countries not reporting emissions for one of more years can potentially lead to artificial trends, but it is considered unavoidable if a comprehensive and comparable set of emissions data for European countries is required for policy analysis purposes.
Data sets uncertainty
NOX emissions estimates in Europe are thought to have an uncertainty of about ±20 % (EMEP (2010), as the NOX emitted comes both from the fuel burnt and the combustion air and so cannot be estimated accurately from fuel nitrogen alone. However, because of the need for interpolation to account for missing data, the complete dataset used will have higher uncertainty. The trend is likely to be more accurate than the individual absolute annual values - the annual values are not independent of each other.
Overall scoring: (1-3, 1=no major problems, 3=major reservations)
- Relevancy: 1
- Accuracy: 2
- Comparability over time: 2
- Comparability over space: 2
SOX emissions estimates in Europe are thought to have an uncertainty of about +/-10 % as the sulphur comes from the fuel burnt and therefore can be accurately estimated. However, because of the need for interpolation to account for missing data, the complete dataset used will have higher uncertainty. EMEP has compared modelled and measured concentrations throughout Europe (EMEP (2010)). From these studies, differences in the annual averages have been estimated to be +/-30 %, which is consistent with an inventory uncertainty of +/-10 % (there are also uncertainties in the measurements and especially the modelling). The trend is likely to be much more accurate than individual absolute values
Overall scoring: (1-3, 1=no major problems, 3=major reservations)
- Relevancy: 1
- Accuracy: 2
- Comparability over time: 2
- Comparability over space: 2
NH3 emissions estimates in Europe are more uncertain than those for NOX, SOX and NMVOC due largely to the diverse nature of major agricultural sources. It is estimated that they are around +/- 30 % (EMEP, 2009). The trend is likely to be more accurate than the individual absolute annual values - the annual values are not independent of each other.
Overall scoring: (1-3, 1=no major problems, 3=major reservations)
- Relevancy: 1
- Accuracy: 2
- Comparability over time: 2
- Comparability over space: 2
This indicator is regularly updated by the EEA and is used in state of the environment assessments. The uncertainties related to methodology and data sets are therefore of importance.
National Emission Ceilings (NEC) Directive Inventory
provided by Directorate-General for Environment (DG ENV)
Air pollution (Primary topic)
Typology: Policy-effectiveness indicator (Type D)
- CSI 040
- APE 010
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoAnke Luekewille
EEA Management Plan2015 1.1.2 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
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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