Do something for our planet, print this page only if needed. Even a small action can make an enormous difference when millions of people do it!
For the public:
Ask your question
The EEA Web CMS works best with following browsers:
Internet Explorer is not recommended for the CMS area.
If you have forgotten your password,
we can send you a new one.
Skip to content. |
Skip to navigation
The manufacturing industry in 11 countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden) has achieved absolute decoupling of nutrient emissions from economic growth (GVA). A decrease in emissions coupled with a decrease in gross value added (GVA) occurred in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Belgium and Finland. However, in all cases (except Finland), the rate of emissions decrease was greater than that of GVA. An increase in nutrient emissions, accompanying the growth in GVA, was observed in Slovakia and Poland.
These developments arise from different absolute levels of emissions intensities and depend on there being no major changes in data coverage - such as including more facilities in the most recent reporting year despite them already existing in the earliest reporting year - within the countries during the reporting period. It should be noted that, as some industrial emissions may vary considerably from year to year, the comparison of just two selected years might be subject to variations, and not be representative of a consistent trend.
The achievement of absolute decoupling of manufacturing industries' heavy metals emissions from economic growth (GVA) was observed again in 12 countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden). A decrease in emissions, coupled with a decrease in GVA occurred in the United Kingdom, Italy and Belgium. In all cases, the decrease in the rate of emissions was greater than that of GVA (relative decoupling). An increase in emissions, despite a drop in GVA, was observed in Finland and France. Finally, a growth in emissions accompanying economic growth occurred in the manufacturing industry in Hungary.
Given the multiple factors that affect both sectoral GVA and the pollution pressure originating from manufacturing, it is complicated to draw direct relationships between these two variables. Some key descriptors, which could aid in explaining this behaviour, are the structure of the sector (e.g. facility size distribution, production technology, relative proportion reported as E-PRTR releases), the socioeconomic characteristics (e.g. salary levels) of the area and the policy and/or economic measures in place (e.g. treatment requirements, pollution charges, taxes). However, it must be noted that the specific context of each country could result in varying combinations of the factors mentioned and their aggregate effects.
Total emissions of primary sub-10µm particulate matter (PM 10 ) have reduced by 24% across the EEA-33 region between 1990 and 2011, driven by a 35% reduction in emissions of the fine particulate matter (PM 2.5 ) fraction. Emissions of particulates between 2.5 and 10 µm have reduced by 12% over the same period; the difference of this trend to that of PM 2.5 is due to significantly increased emissions in the 2.5 to 10 µm fraction from 'Road transport' and 'Agriculture' (of 20% and 6% respectively) since 1990.
Of this reduction in PM 10 emissions, % has taken place in the 'Energy Production and Distribution' sector due to factors including the fuel-switching from coal to natural gas for electricity generation and improvements in the performance of pollution abatement equipment installed at industrial facilities.
Local soil contamination in 2011 was estimated at 2.5 million potentially contaminated sites in the EEA-39, of which about 45 % have been identified to date. About one third of an estimated total of 342 000 contaminated sites in the EEA-39 have already been identified and about 15 % of these 342 000 sites have been remediated. However, there are substantial differences in the underlying site definitions and interpretations that are used in different countries.
Four management steps are defined for the management and control of local soil contamination, namely site identification (or preliminary studies), preliminary investigations, main site investigations, and implementation of risk reduction measures. Progress with each of these steps provides evidence that countries are identifying potentially contaminated sites, verifying if these sites are actually contaminated and implementing remediation measures where these are required. Some countries have defined targets for the different steps.
Thirty of the 39 countries surveyed maintain comprehensive inventories for contaminated sites: 24 countries have central national data inventories, while six countries, namely Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Germany, Greece, Italy and Sweden, manage their inventories at the regional level. Almost all of the inventories include information on polluting activities, potentially contaminated sites and contaminated sites.
Contaminated soil continues to be commonly managed using “traditional” techniques, e.g. excavation and off-site disposal, which accounts for about one third of management practices. In-situ and ex-situ remediation techniques for contaminated soil are applied more or less equally.
Overall, the production sectors contribute more to local soil contamination than the service sectors, while mining activities are important sources of soil contamination in some countries. In the production sector, metal industries are reported as most polluting whereas the textile, leather, wood and paper industries are minor contributors to local soil contamination. Gasoline stations are the most frequently reported sources of contamination for the service sector.
The relative importance of different contaminants is similar for both liquid and solid matrices. The most frequent contaminants are mineral oils and heavy metals. Generally, phenols and cyanides make a negligible overall contribution to total contamination.
On average, 42 % of the total expenditure on the management of contaminated sites comes from public budgets. Annual national expenditures for the management of contaminated sites are on average about EUR 10.7 per capita. This corresponds to an average of 0.041 % of the national GDP. Around 81 % of the annual national expenditures for the management of contaminated sites is spent on remediation measures, while only 15 % is spent on site investigations.
It should be noted that all results derive from data provided by 27 (out of 39) countries that returned the questionnaire, and not all countries answered all questions.
Emissions of the acidifying pollutants, nitrogen oxides (NO X ), sulphur oxides (SO X ) and ammonia (NH 3 ), have decreased significantly in most of the individual EEA member countries between 1990 and 2011. Emissions of SO X have decreased by 74%, NO X by 44% and NH 3 by 25% since 1990 within the EEA-33.
Data reported under the NECD indicates that in 2011 the EU-28 as a whole met its continuing obligation to maintain emissions of NO X , SO X and NH 3 below 2010 target as specified by the EU’s National Emissions Ceiling Directive (NECD). However, the EU-15 as a whole and seven individual Member States, all of which are in the EU-15 group, reported emissions in 2011 above their NECD emission ceilings for NO X . Four EU member states reported 2011 NH 3 emissions above the levels of their NECD ceilings, three of which are in the group of fifteen pre-2004 EU member states.
Three additional countries which are current EEA Member States have emission ceilings for 2010 under the UNECE/CLRTAP Gothenburg protocol (Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). Both Liechtenstein and Norway reported NO X and NH 3 emissions in 2011 that were higher than their respective 2010 ceilings.
EEA-33 emissions of non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) have decreased by 57% since 1990. In 2011, the most significant sources of NMVOC emissions were 'Solvent and product use' (43%), comprising activities such as paint application, dry-cleaning and other use of solvents, followed by 'Commercial, institutional and households' (17%).
The decline in emissions since 1990 has primarily been due to reductions achieved in the road transport sector due to the introduction of vehicle catalytic converters to reduce exhaust emissions, and carbon canisters on petrol cars for evaporative emission control. These reductions have been driven by tighter vehicle emission standards, combined with limits on the maximum volatility of petrol that can be sold in EU Member States, as specified in fuel quality directives. The reductions in NMVOC emissions have been enhanced by the switching from petrol to diesel cars in some EU countries. Reductions have also occurred in the 'Solvents and product use' sector as a result of the introduction of legislative measures limiting the use and emissions of solvents.
The majority of EU-28 Member States have reduced emissions since 1990 in line with their obligations under the National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD), however 2 Member states have not met their ceilings (3.4%)  . Emissions in 2011 for the three non-EU countries which have emission ceilings for 2010 set under the UNECE/CLRTAP Gothenburg protocol (Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) were all well below their respective ceilings.
Environmental context: Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) are a collection of organic compounds that differ widely in their chemical composition but display similar behaviour in the atmosphere. NMVOCs are emitted into the atmosphere from a large number of sources including combustion activities, solvent use and production processes. Biogenic NMVOC are emitted by vegetation, with amounts dependent on the species and on temperature. NMVOCs contribute to the formation of ground-level (tropospheric) ozone, and certain species such as benzene and 1,3 butadiene are directly hazardous to human health. Quantifying the emissions of total NMVOC provides an indicator of the emissions of the most hazardous NMVOCs.
 Emissions data reported by EU member states under NECD is used for comparison with NECD ceilings, and data reported under CLRTAP is used for all other calculations unless otherwise stated.
EEA-33 emissions of nitrogen oxides (NO X ) decreased by 44% between 1990 and 2011. In 2011, the most significant sources of NO X emissions were 'Road transport' (41%), 'Energy production and distribution' (23%) and the 'Commercial, institutional and households' (13%) sectors.
The largest reduction of emissions in absolute terms since 1990 has occurred in the road transport sector, from which emissions in the EEA-33 have fallen 48% since 1990; in all years since 1990, emissions in this sector have fallen compared with the previous year, by an average of 3% per year. This reduction has been achieved despite the general increase in activity within this sector since the early 1990s and has primarily been achieved as a result of fitting three-way catalysts to petrol fuelled vehicles. However, ambient urban concentrations of NO 2 in EU-28 countries in recent years have not fallen by as much as reported emissions and a number of Member States' NO X emissions could therefore be systematically higher than currently calculated.
In the electricity/energy production sector, reductions have occurred as a result of measures such as the introduction of combustion modification technologies (e.g. the use of low NO X burners, which reduce formation of NO X in combustion), the implementation of flue-gas abatement techniques (e.g. NO X scrubbers and selective catalytic and non-catalytic reduction techniques - SCR and SNCR) and fuel-switching from coal to gas (which has significantly lower NO X emissions per unit energy).
The National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD) specifies NO X emission ceilings for Member States that must have been met by 2010. In general, the newer EU Member States have made substantially better progress against their respective NO X ceilings than the older Member States of the EU-15. Twelve of the EU-13 Member States had reduced their emissions beyond what is required under the NECD  by 2010, and by 2011 all had met their targets. In contrast, only five EU-15 Member States reported 2010 emissions within their respective national ceilings and by 2011 this had increased to just eight. Of the three non-EU countries having emission ceilings set under the UNECE/CLRTAP Gothenburg protocol, only Switzerland reported 2011 emissions below the level of their 2010 ceiling.
Environmental context: NO X contributes to acid deposition and eutrophication of soil and water. 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. Eutrophication can lead to severe reductions in water quality with subsequent impacts including decreased biodiversity, changes in species composition and dominance, and toxicity effects. NO 2 is associated with adverse effects on human health, as at high concentrations it can cause inflammation of the airways and reduced lung function, increasing susceptibility to respiratory infection. It also contributes to the formation of secondary particulate aerosols and tropospheric ozone in the atmosphere, both of which are important air pollutants due to their adverse impacts on human health and other climate effects.
 Emissions data reported by EU member states under NECD is used for comparison with NECD ceilings, while data reported under CLRTAP is used for all other calculations unless otherwise stated.
EEA-33 emissions of a number of compounds categorised as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) have decreased between 1990 and 2011, including hexachlorobenzene (HCB) by 96%, hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) by 95%, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) by 73%, dioxins & furans by 84%, and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) by 58%. While the majority of individual countries report that POP emissions have fallen during this period, a number report that increases in emissions of one or more pollutants have occurred.
In 2011, the most significant sources of emissions for these POPs included the sectors 'Commercial, institutional and households' (61% for PAHs, 19% of HCB, 39% of dioxins and furans, 15% of PCB emissions) and 'Industrial processes' (43% of HCB, 75% of HCH, 38% of PCB emissions).
Important emission sources of PAH include residential combustion processes (open fires, coal and wood burning for heating purposes etc.), industrial metal production processes, and the road transport sector. Emissions from these sources have all declined since 1990 as a result of decreased residential use of coal, improvements in abatement technologies for metal refining and smelting, and stricter regulations on emissions from the road transport sector.
Environmental context: Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are chemical substances that persist in the environment, have potential for biomagnification through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment. This group of substances includes unintentional by-products of industrial processes (such as PAHs, dioxins and furans) pesticides (such as DDT) and industrial chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). All share the property of being progressively accumulated higher up the food chain, such that bioaccumulation in lower organisms to relatively low concentrations can expose higher consumer organisms, including humans, to potentially harmful concentrations. In humans they are also of concern for human health because of their toxicity, their potential to cause cancer and their ability to cause harmful effects at low concentrations. Their relative toxic/carcinogenic potencies are compound specific, but in general the major concerns are centred on their possible role in causing cancer, neurobehavioral, immunological and reproductive disorders. More recently concern has also been expressed over their possible harmful effects on human development.
Across the EEA-33 countries, emissions of lead have decreased by 89%, mercury by 66% and cadmium by 64% between 1990 and 2011. For each substance, the most significant sources in 2011 are from energy-related fuel combustion, particularly from public power and heat generating facilities, and from industrial facilities.
Much progress has been made since the early 1990s in reducing point source emissions of cadmium and lead (e.g. emissions from industrial facilities). This has been achieved through improvements in, for example, abatement technologies for wastewater treatment, incinerators and in metal refining and smelting industries, and in some countries by the closure of older industrial facilities as a consequence of economic re-structuring.
In the case of mercury, the observed decrease in emissions may be largely attributed to improved controls on mercury cells used in industrial processes (e.g. in the chlor-alkali process) including the replacement of old mercury cells by diaphragm or membrane cells, and the general decline of coal use across Europe as a result of fuel switching.
The promotion of unleaded petrol within the EU and in other EEA member countries through a combination of fiscal and regulatory measures has been a particular success story. EU Member States have completely phased out the use of leaded petrol, a goal that was regulated by Directive 98/70/EC. From being the largest source of lead emissions in 1990, when it contributed around 76% of the EEA-33 total for lead, 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.
Environmental context: Heavy metals (such as cadmium, lead and mercury) are recognised as being toxic to biota. All are prone to biomagnification, i.e. being progressively accumulated higher up the food chain, such that bioaccumulation in lower organisms at relatively low concentrations can expose higher consumer organisms, including humans, to potentially harmful concentrations. In humans they are also of direct concern because of their toxicity, their potential to cause cancer and their potential ability to cause harmful effects at low concentrations.
The relative toxic/carcinogenic potencies of heavy metals are compound specific, but exposure to heavy metals has been linked with developmental retardation, various cancers and kidney damage. Metals are persistent throughout the environment, and cadmium, lead and mercury are among those heavy metals that are already a focus of international and EU action. These substances tend not just to be confined to a given geographical region, and thus are not always open to effective local control. For example, in the case of cadmium, much is found in fine particles which do not readily dry-deposit, and therefore have long residence times in the atmosphere and are subject to long-range transport processes.
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 06 Mar 2015, 06:34 PM
When you boil water for a hot drink, try to boil only what you need, or pour the surplus into a thermos flask to keep the water hot for your next cup!
More green tips
EEA Web Team
Software updates history
Code for developers
Refresh this page