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In the EU-28 countries, the ecosystem area where acidification critical loads were exceeded decreased from 43% in 1980 to 7% in 2010 (it also decreased by 7% across all EEA member countries). There remain some areas where the EU's interim objective for reducing acidification, as defined in the National Emission Ceilings Directive, has not been met.
The EU28 ecosystem area, where the critical loads for eutrophication were exceeded, peaked at 84% in 1990 and decreased to 63% in 2010 (55% in EEA member countries). The area in exceedance is projected to further decrease to 54% in 2020 for the EU28 (48% in EEA member countries), assuming current legislation is implemented. The magnitude of the exceedances is projected to reduce considerably in most areas, except for a few 'hot spot' areas in western France and the border areas between the Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands as well as in northern Italy.
Only 4% of the EU-28 ecosystem area (3% in EEA member countries) is still projected to be in exceedance of acidification critical loads in 2020 if current legislation is fully implemented. The eutrophication reduction target set in the updated EU air pollution strategy proposed by the European Commission in late 2013, will be met by 2030 if it is assumed that all maximum technically feasible reduction measures are implemented, but it will not be met by current legislation.
Most of Europe's vegetation and agricultural crops are exposed to ozone levels that exceed the long term objective specified in the EU Air Quality Directive. A significant fraction is also exposed to levels above the target value threshold defined in the directive. In 2012, the agricultural area exposed to concentrations above the target value threshold increased to 27% of the total area, representing an increase compared to the previous three years.
With regard to forest ozone exposure, between 2004 and 2012, 60% or more of the forest area was exposed to concentrations above the critical level set by the UNECE Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution.
Air quality in Europe is slowly improving. However, between 2000 and 2013, a significant proportion of the urban population in the EU28 was exposed to concentrations of certain air pollutants above the EU limit or target values. The numbers of people exposed were even higher in relation to the more stringent World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guideline values set for the protection of human health .
For fine particulate matter (PM 2.5 ), 4-14% of t he urban population were exposed to concentrations in excess of the EU target value, while 87-98% were exposed to concentrations above the WHO guideline value (for 2006-2013 only) .
For particulate matter (PM 10 ), the respective exposure estimates were 17-41% for the EU limit value and 61-92% for the WHO guideline value .
For ozone (O 3 ), 14-58% for the EU target value and 93-99% for the WHO guideline value .
For nitrogen dioxide (NO 2 ), 8-27% in both cases (limit value and WHO guideline).
For benzo(a)pyrene (BaP), 20-28% for EU target value and 85-91% for the estimated reference level (for 2008-2013 only).
Emissions of a number of compounds categorised as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) - e.g. hexachlorobenzene (HCB, by 92%), hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH, by 85%), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs, by 75%), dioxins & furans (by 83%), and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs, by 61%) - decreased between 1990 and 2012 in the EEA-33 countries. While the majority of countries report that POPs emissions fell during this period, a number report that increased emissions occurred.
In 2012, the most significant sources of emissions for these POPs included ‘Commercial, institutional and households’ (10% of HCB, 32% of dioxins and furans, 16% of PCBs) and ‘Industrial processes’ (70% of HCB, 32% of HCH, 27% of PCBs) sectors.
Anthropogenic emissions of the main air pollutants decreased significantly in most EEA-33 member countries between 1990 and 2012:
Nitrogen oxides (NO X ) emissions decreased by 46% (51% in the EU-28);
Sulphur oxides (SO X ) 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 (NH 3 ) emissions decreased by 24% (28% in the EU-28); and
Fine particulate matter (PM 2.5 ) 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 NO X . 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 SO X , NH 3 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 NO X , three for NH 3 , and one for NMVOCs. There are no emission ceilings for primary PM 2.5 .
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 NH 3 and for NOx.
Across the EEA-33 countries, emissions of lead decreased by 89%, mercury by 66% and cadmium by 64% between 1990 and 2012.
Emissions from the road transport sector have decreased by nearly 98%. Nevertheless, the road transport sector still remains an important source of lead, contributing around 12% of total lead emissions in the EEA-33 region. However, since 2004, little progress has been made in reducing emissions further; 97.9% of the total reduction from 1990 emissions of lead had been achieved by 2004.
The latest year’s available data show a continuation of the general trend for decreases in air pollutant emissions from transport: all transport-derived pollutants decreased between 2011 and 2012 (by 6 % in the case of NO x , 7 % for SO x , and by 6 % and 7 % in the case of PM 10 and PM 2.5 , respectively). The latest data show that non-exhaust emissions are 46 % of the exhaust emissions of primary PM 10 in 2012, and 31 % of the exhaust emissions of primary PM 2.5 .
Aviation is the only subsector where emissions have increased in the last year available, by 7 % for NH 3 and by 9 % for SO x emissions. Aviation and shipping are the two sectors where increases in activity since 1990 have offset reductions elsewhere, in particular for SO x but also for NO x and PM. Road transport and aviation have also increased NH 3 emissions significantly over the last two decades, but while road transport has recently reduced its emissions, aviation has not yet been able to do so.
In general terms, the transport sector achieved important reductions in the period 1990 through 2012: reductions in CO and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) (both 81 %), but also in NO x (33 %), SO x (26 %) and particulates (by 23 % in the case of PM 2.5 and by 18 % for PM 10 ).
Ozone is both an important air pollutant and a GHG. Excessive exposure to ground-level ozone is estimated to cause about 20000 premature deaths per year in Europe.
Attribution of observed ozone exceedances, or changes therein, to individual causes, such as climate change, is difficult.
Future climate change is expected to increase ozone concentrations but this effect will most likely be outweighed by reduction in ozone levels due to expected future emission reductions.
The data analysed from selected stations in major urban agglomerations indicate that during the period 1999-2008 mean values of NO 2 concentrations at road traffic stations remain relatively stable (trend is smaller than the statistical uncertainty on estimate). An increase is observed after 2003 in the maximum observed concentrations and although a slight reduction is observed in 2007, a further increase is noted in 2008. The background concentrations remain relatively stable throughout the period 1999-2008. For PM10, a slight increase was observed in 2003 in the maximum background concentrations, but these have followed a downward trend since. The trend in the maximum PM10 concentration at traffic stations varies during the period 2002-2008, with a downward trend observed between 2002-2004, an increase in 2006 and a downward trend thereafter. Throughout the period 2002-2007 mean traffic and mean background concentrations remain relatively stable, with a slight downward trend observed in recent years.
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.
PDF generated on 28 Nov 2015, 08:19 AM
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