Air pollution (Lithuania)
Why should we care about this issue
- Air pollution
Ambient air pollution levels in Lithuania depend on emissions of pollutants from local sources and long-range transboundary air pollution across Europe. Anthropogenic sulphur and nitrogen compounds in ambient air are associated with the processes of acidification and eutrophication in natural ecosystems and with general air pollution. Air pollution containing particulate matter is a fairly urgent problem in the larger cities of Lithuania.
The state and impacts
In 2007, emissions to air in Lithuania were significantly lower than in 1991 (403 300 tonnes in 2007 as against 1 022 900 tonnes in 1991, see Fig. 1). Fluctuations of emissions to air from local sources of pollution were influenced by changes in Lithuania’s economy and the implementation of environmental measures (e.g. the introduction of fuel with a lower sulphur content in the energy sector, causing sulphur dioxide emissions to decrease from 169 400 tonnes in 1991 to 38 700 tonnes in 2007). Meanwhile, emissions from mobile sources of pollution contracted due to the renewal of the motor vehicle fleet. In 1991, emissions to air from the transport sector included 462 000 tonnes of carbon monoxide and 81 000 tonnes of nitrogen oxides, while in 2007 carbon monoxide emissions had shrunk to 93 600 tonnes and nitrogen oxide emissions to 47 200 tonnes. Thus, in 2007, SO2 emissions accounted for 27 %, NOx for 63 %, volatile organic compounds (VOC) for 80 % and NH3 for 43 % of the set emission ceilings.
The largest sources of pollutants for which national emission ceilings have been established (SO2, NOx, VOC and NH3) are the energy, transport and industry sectors:
Ø In 2007, emissions from oil refineries, power and heat production and other energy and household sectors accounted for almost 60 % of total SO2 emissions;
Ø The sector producing the largest NH3 emissions is agriculture. Over 70% of all ammonia is released from livestock manure, with another 12 % of emissions from soil;
Ø The largest VOC pollution comes from the use of paints containing solvents (21.3 %), production and storage of petrochemicals (12.7 %) and the burning of wood-based fuels by households (14.3%);
Ø Of the total NOx emissions from all sectors, 68 % come from the transport sector alone (emissions from passenger vehicles and heavy goods vehicles account for 28 % and 40 %, respectively);
Ø The largest PM10 and PM2.5 emissions are produced by households, power and heat production and other sectors of industry. PM emissions from these sectors account for 60 % and 66 %, respectively.
In the period 2005–2008, average annual concentrations of the main pollutants in Lithuania did not exceed the limit values.
Urban air pollution by particulate matter has been gradually decreasing since 2004. For the first time in 2008, the number of daily limit value exceedances of particulate matter was below the maximum allowable number (daily limit value not to be exceeded more than 35 days per year) (Fig. 2). In previous years, a fairly large number of exceedances had been recorded as a result of the sand and salt mixture spread on streets during the winter season to improve traffic safety. In 2008, this activity was not so intensive due to the unusually warm winter. This factor, along with the implementation of local municipal air quality control measures, may have been instrumental in determining lower levels of air pollution containing particulate matter.
The key drivers and pressures
The largest sources of emissions to air in Lithuania are the energy, industry and transport sectors. As a result of increased energy efficiency, emission reduction measures and district heating, average annual concentrations of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and heavy metals have not recently exceeded the set limit values for Lithuanian cities. Urban air quality mainly depends on transport emissions. Due to the growing number of motor vehicles in larger cities, average 24-hour concentrations of particulate matter (PM10) in areas of heavy traffic sometimes exceed the set limit values, which can contribute to the aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
Owing to the chemical features of the tropospheric ozone formation and the meteorological conditions of this process, the highest ozone concentration was observed in suburbs or rural areas, away from other sources of emissions. During the period 2003–2007, ozone levels did not exceed the target value stipulated in the EU Ozone Directive at any measuring stations.
The 2020 outlook
- National Energy Strategy 2007
- Reports on ambient air quality assessed according to the requirements of Council Directives 96/62/EC and 1999/30/EC and Directives 2000/69/EC and 2002/3/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council 2004-2008
- National Sustainable Development Strategy 2003
- Updated National Sustainable Development Strategy 2009
- MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT (2008) State of the Environment. Facts Only, 2006
- Lithuania's Environment, State, Processes and Development 2008
To achieve the atmospheric pollution and GHG emission reduction targets, Lithuania is attempting to increase energy efficiency and promote the use of local renewable energy resources. In 2007, the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania approved a National Energy Strategy which provides the use of local and renewable energy resources and sets the target of achieving a 20-percent share of energy from renewable resources in the primary energy mix by 2025. The Strategy envisages the market share of automotive biofuels reaching 20 % by 2025. At present, a parliamentary working group is drafting a new law on renewable energy resources.
Fig. 3 Percentage growth rate of primary energy, electrical energy and biofuel production, 2001–2007 and targets for 2010 Source: Ministry of Economy.
Existing and planned responses
The Directive 2001/81/EC on national emission ceilings for certain atmospheric pollutants was transposed into Lithuanian law in 2003. In accordance with the Ambient Air Protection Act, the Ministry of Environment sets the total maximum emission levels from point sources for the whole of Lithuania and for individual regions. Based on this provision, national emission ceilings have been set and approved for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia and VOC. These ceilings cannot be exceeded in 2010 or any subsequent year. In 2008, Lithuania approved the National Programme for Air Emissions Management until 2010 and its implementation plan.
The National Strategy for Sustainable Development sets a target for the industry, energy and transport sectors whereby emissions to air must not increase more than 5% by 2010 against levels for 2001–2005. Lithuania should also abandon the use of ozone-depleting substances by 2015, except for cases where no satisfactory alternatives exist or where the use of alternatives is unacceptable from an economic or technical point of view.