Personal tools


Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Sound and independent information
on the environment


SOER Country

Air pollution (Greece)

Why should we care about this issue

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Αir quality issues in Greece arise from urban and industrial air pollution. Following the economic and social development of the country, the sources of urban air pollution are mainly transport and central heating. The major challenges of transport in urban areas are the rising number of vehicles, their increased average age, and traffic congestion. Air quality problems from industrial sources mainly concern areas with thermo-electrical power stations and industrial units located close to residential areas.

Natural sources (e.g. transport of dust from deserts) and conditions (e.g. local topography and climatic conditions) also worsen urban air quality. Local meteorological conditions and topography have a major impact on air quality in coastal megacities (Athens and Thessaloniki) and contribute to the generation of air pollution episodes. Air quality is then strongly influenced by pollutants trapped due to thermal inversions caused from sea/land breezes and thermal internal boundary layers.

The state and impacts

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Air pollutant concentrations

The air quality assessment for the period 2001-2007 refers to population resident in municipalities of the Metropolitan Area of Athens and there was no clear trend over the period. (Figure 1; GR – EEA CSI 004). This corresponds to about 40 % of the total Greek population and is covered by urban background monitoring stations. More specifically:

  • 4-30 % of the above urban population was exposed to daily mean PM10 concentrations in excess of the indicative limits set for each year (50 μg/m3, in 2005-2007).
  • 70-85 % of the resident population was exposed to NO2 annual mean concentrations in the range of the indicative target limit for each year. Only in 2005, about 12 % of the resident population was potentially exposed to concentrations greater than the indicative limit value for that year (50 μg/m3).
  • The target level of 120 μg/m3 for ozone was not exceeded for 12-52 % of the resident population. However, between 100 % in 2001 and 32 % in 2007 was potentially exposed to exceedances on more than 25 days.
  • There was no exceedance of the EU limit for SO2 daily mean (125 μg/m3, not to be exceeded on more than three days a year).


Air pollutant effects

High concentrations of tropospheric ozone and its precursors (e.g. NOx and NMVOC) have shown to adversely affect the human health and vegetation. In the past, deposition of acidifying substances had damaged ecosystems, historical buildings and materials (corrosion). Excessive input of nutrients from atmospheric deposition leads to eutrophication in freshwaters. Acidifying pollutants also contribute to the formation of particulate matter, which cause human respiratory diseases.

The key drivers and pressures

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011


The main driving forces of environmental pressures on air quality are related to population and economic trends, transport, energy and agricultural demand and household consumption.

From 1991 to 2001, the Greek population increased with an average annual population growth rate of 0.66 % and is estimated to decrease from 0.326 % in 2005 to 0.065 % in 2020 (NSSG, 2009). The number of individuals per household is estimated to decrease annually from 0.43 % in 2000-2005 to 0.37 % in 2010-2015, reflecting ageing of population and new living arrangements (MINENV, 2009).

Between 2000 and 2007, there is a relative decoupling of economic growth from energy use, with total primary energy consumption growing by 13.4 % (Figure 2; GR - EEA CSI 028). Fossil fuels continue to dominate total primary energy consumption and the share of renewables remains small (5.2 % in 2007) (GR - EEA CSI 029).

Transport represents the highest share of the final energy consumption in Greece (38.7 % in 2007, increased by 48 % since 1990). The fastest-growing sector, but with low share, is services (Figure 3; GR – EEA CSI 027).

In 2007, the share of transport towards emissions of ozone precursors was the highest (39.4 %), followed by energy supply (30.8 %; Figure 4; GR - EEA EN05). Energy supply had the highest share in the emissions of acidifying substances (46.8 %; Figure 5; GR - EEA EN06) and secondary particulate matter (52.8 %; Figure 6; GR - EEA EN07).

Emissions of particulate matter and acidifying substances from the transport sector were almost stable between 1990 and 2007, whereas the transport emissions of ozone precursors decreased by 33.5 %. Although the NOx emissions remained the same, there is a great decrease in CO and NMVOC emissions due to the continuing increase of passenger cars with catalytic converters (Figure 7; GR – EEA TERM 03).


Table 1 presents the changes in aggregated emissions of acidifying pollutants, ground-level ozone precursors, and primary and secondary particulate matter.


Table 1.            Changes in emissions of air pollutants, 1990-2007

1. Changes in emissions of acidifying substances

between 1990-2007



Nitrogen oxides (NOx)


Increase mainly due to

NOx and SO2 emission

(Figure 8; GR – EEA CSI 001)

Sulphur dioxide (SO2)


Ammonia (NH3)


Acidification equivalents (kt)



2. Changes in ozone precursor emissions

between 1990 and 2007



CH4 (with LULUCF)


Reduction mainly due to

NMVOC emissions

(Figure 9; GR – EEA CSI 002)

NOx (with LULUCF)






Ozone precursors (NMVOC equiv)



3. Changes in emissions of particulate matter processors

between 1990 and 2007





Primary PM10 emissions make only a small contribution;

secondary PM are the most important

(Figure 10; GR – EEA CSI 003)







Total PM10 equivalents




Figure 1.

Figure 1.          Percentage of population resident in Metropolitan Area of Athens, potentially exposed to PM10 concentration levels exceeding the daily indicative limit value


Figure 2


Figure 2.          Total energy intensity

Figure 3

Figure 3.          Final energy consumption by sector (shares)



Figure 4

Figure 4.          Sectoral non-energy and energy-related emissions of ozone precursors, 1990-2007


Figure 5

Figure 5.          Sectoral non-energy and energy-related emissions of acidifying pollutants, 1990-2007


Figure 6


Figure 6.          Sectoral shares of secondary particulate matter, 2007

Figure 7

Figure 7.          Transport emissions of air pollutants, 1990-2007


Figure 8

Figure 8.          Emissions of acidifying substances


Figure 9

Figure 9.          Emissions of ozone precursors


Figure 10

Figure 10.         Emissions of primary particulate matter and secondary particulate matter precursors


The 2020 outlook

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Table 2 presents the projections for the air pollutant emissions in 2010.


Table 2.            Projections of air pollutant emissions, 1990-2010


Changes between

1990 and 2010


distance to target





Close to meet NECD 2010 ceiling for SO2 emissions (523 kt) (GR – EEA AP1)




Close to meet the 2010 NECD ceiling for NO2 emissions (344 kt) (GR – EEA AP2)




On track to meet the 2010 NECD ceiling for NH3 emissions (73 kt) (GR – EEA AP3a)




On track to meet the NECD 2010 ceiling for NMVOC emissions (261 kt) (GR – EEA AP4)

Existing and planned responses

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Ambient air quality target and limit values have been revised on the basis of the EU Air Quality Framework Directive (96/62/EC) and related daughter directives. Greece needs to adjust the national legislation to include limits on fine particles (EU air quality directive 2008/50/EC). The policy goals and main measures derived from the 2002 National Sustainable Development Strategy are as follows:

  • Implementation of energy conservation programmes and application of more energy efficient technologies in power plants and industries;
  • Implementation of Best Available Techniques and BREFs, according to IPPC Directive;
  •  Further promotion of natural gas (in industry, power supply and residential sector) and renewable sources (e.g. solar energy);
  • Further promotion of cleaner fuels (in terms of sulphur and lead contents) in industry and households;
  •  Reduction of SOx emissions (from lignite‑fired power plants), NMVOC emissions (from refineries) and NOx emissions (from transport);
  • Enforcement of air‑related regulations through strengthened field inspections;
  • Expansion of the ambient air monitoring network, harmonisation of measurement methods between stations and expansion of the list of pollutants monitored (PM2.5, PAHs, heavy metals);
  • Development and introduction of measures to reduce emissions from transport;
  • Further development of economic instruments to integrate air management objectives into energy and transport policies.







The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

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