Indicator Assessment

Ammonia (NH3) emissions

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-168-en
  Also known as: APE 003
Published 15 Oct 2010 Last modified 11 May 2021
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This page was archived on 18 Jun 2015 with reason: Other (Discontinued Indicator)
  • EEA-32 emissions of NH3 have declined by 24% between the years 1990 and 2008. Agriculture was responsible for 94% of NH3 emissions in 2008.
  • The reduction in emissions within the agricultural sector is primarily due to a reduction in livestock numbers (especially cattle) since 1990, changes in the handling and management of organic manures and from the decreased use of nitrogenous fertilisers. The reductions achieved in the agricultural sector have been marginally offset by the increased emissions which have occurred during this period in sectors such as transport and to a lesser extent the energy industry and other (non-energy) sectors.
  • In general, Member States have made excellent progress in reducing emissions below the level of their respective emission ceilings set in the National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD). Twenty-two of the EU-27 Member States have already achieved their 2010 ceilings in 2008. Only Finland still needs to make significant further reductions in order to meet their respective ceilings under the NECD. In the three non-EU countries having emission ceilings set under the UNECE/CLRTAP Gothenburg protocol (Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), emissions of ammonia in 2008 were higher than the ceiling in two countries (Liechtenstein and Switzerland), whilst emissions in Norway were below the ceiling limit by 1%.
  • Environmental context: NH3 contributes to acid deposition and eutrophication. 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. NH3 also contributes to the formation of secondary particulate aerosols, an important air pollutant due to its adverse impacts on human health. 
This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.

Change in emissions of ammonia compared with the 2010 NECD and Gothenburg protocol targets (EEA member countries)

Note: The reported change in ammonia (NH3) emissions for each country, 1990-2008 in comparison with the 2010 NECD and Gothenburg protocol targets.

Ammonia (NH3) distance-to-target for EEA member countries

Note: The distance-to-target indicator shows how current emissions compare to a linear emission reduction 'target-path' between 1990 emission levels and the 2010 emission ceiling for each country. Negative percentage values indicate the current emissions in a country are below the linear target path; positive values show that current emission lie above a linear target path to 2010.

EEA-32 ammonia emissions have decreased by 24% between 1990 and 2008.

In general, the EU Member States have made excellent progress in reducing emissions below the level of their respective emission ceilings set in the National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD), with 22 of the EU-27 Member States having already achieved their ceilings. These Member States are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

However, a small number of Member States still require relatively significant reductions in NH3 emissions to be made if they are to meet their 2010 ceilings under the NECD. These Member States are Finland, Denmark and Germany.

Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey are not members of the European Union and hence have no emission ceilings set under the NECD. Norway and Switzerland have ratified the UNECE LRTAP Convention’s Gothenburg Protocol, requiring them to reduce their emissions to the agreed ceiling specified in the protocol by 2010. Liechtenstein has also signed, but not ratified the protocol. Norway already reports emissions below the level of their ceiling under the Gothenburg Protocol; however emissions in Switzerland have risen since 2007 and now exceed their ceiling level. Emissions of NH3 in Lichtenstein are also slightly above the level of their 2010 ceiling.

The NECD and Gothenburg protocol are currently being reviewed. The revision of the NECD is part of the implementation of the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution, but a proposal for a revised directive is presently on hold until 2013. A proposal to amend the Gothenburg protocol  is presently under preparation and is expected to propose emission ceilings to be met by 2020 for the four already regulated substances (NOX, NMVOCs, SO2 and NH3) and in addition for primary emissions of PM2.5.

Emissions by sector of ammonia - 2008 (EEA member countries)

Note: The contribution made by different sectors to emissions of ammonia.

Change in ammonia emissions for each sector between 1990 and 2008 (EEA member countries)

Note: Percentage change in ammonia (NH3) emissions for each sector between 1990 and 2008.

Contribution to total change in ammonia emissions for each sector (EEA member countries)

Note: The contribution made by each sector to the total change in ammonia (NH3) emissions between 1990 and 2008.

The agricultural sector remains the major source of NH3 emissions (94% of total 2008 emissions).

These emissions derive mainly 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 storage techniques. The majority of the reduction in emissions is due to the combination of reduced livestock numbers across Europe (especially cattle), and the lower use of nitrogenous fertilisers. NH3 emissions have also declined in countries outside the European Union between 1990 and 2008. Again this is primarily due to reductions which have occurred in the agricultural sector as a result of decreasing animal numbers.

Emissions from road transport, although relatively small have risen from 1990 levels as a result of the increasing use of three-way catalytic converters in the vehicle fleet (this is due to an unwanted reaction involving hydrogen which reduces NO to NH3). However emissions have fallen since 2000, and are projected to fall in the future, as the second generation of catalysts (which emit lower levels of NH3 than the first generation catalysts) penetrate the vehicle fleet.

Supporting information

Indicator definition

  • This indicator tracks trends since 1990 in anthropogenic emissions of sulphur dioxide.
  • The indicator also provides information on emissions by sectors: energy production and distribution; energy use in industry; industrial processes; road transport; non-road transport; commercial, institutional and households; solvent and product use; agriculture; waste; other.
  • Geographical coverage: EEA-32. The EEA-32 country grouping includes countries of the EU-27 (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) EFTA-4 (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Norway) and Turkey.
  • Temporal coverage: 1990-2010


ktonnes (1000 tonnes)


Policy context and targets

Context description

A number of policies have been implemented within Europe that either directly or indirectly act to reduce emissions of NH3. These include:

  • The National Emission Ceilings Directive 2001/81/EC (NECD) which entered into force in the European Community in 2001. The NECD sets emission ceilings for four important air pollutants (NH3, sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs)) to be achieved from 2010 onwards for each Member State. The ceilings are designed to improve the protection in the Community of the environment and human health against risks of adverse effects arising from acidification, eutrophication and ground level ozone. The NECD is presently under review, the European Commission may adopt a proposal for a revised Directive during 2010.
  • The Gothenburg Protocol (1999) to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe's (UNECE) Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention) to abate acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone. A key objective of the protocol is to regulate emissions on a regional basis within Europe and to protect eco-systems from transboundary pollution by setting emission reduction ceilings to be reached by 2010 for the same four pollutants as addressed in the NECD (i.e. NH3, SOX, NOX, and NMVOCs). Overall for the EU Member States, the ceilings set within the Gothenburg protocol are generally either slightly less strict or the same as the emission ceilings specified in the NECD.
  • The Directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (96/61/EC) entered into force in 1999.  It aims to prevent or minimise pollution to air, water or land from various industrial sources throughout the European Union. Those installations covered by Annex I of the IPPC Directive are required to obtain authorisation from the authorities to operate. New installations and existing installations, which are subject to 'substantial changes' have been required to meet the requirements of the IPPC Directive since 30th October 1999. Other existing installations must have been brought into compliance by the 30 October 2007. The emission limit values outlined in the permit conditions must be based on best available techniques (BAT). The Commission has been undertaking a review of the IPPC Directive and related legislation on industrial emissions and on the 21 December 2007 adopted a proposal for a Directive on industrial emissions. The proposal recasts seven existing Directives relating to industrial emissions (including IPPC and the Large Combustion Plant Directive (2001/80/EC) into a single legislative instrument.

Apart from the NECD and Gothenburg Protocol and the IPPC Directive, there is currently no other EU legislation proposed or in force specifically aimed at reducing ammonia emissions. However, several regulatory instruments have influenced EU emissions of ammonia from the agriculture sector since 1990, such as:

  • the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP);
  • the Nitrate Directive (91/676/EEC);
  • the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC).

These measures have had the indirect effect of changing agricultural practices across the EU, and have, for instance, led to a reduced use of nitrogenous fertilisers and to an overall decrease in cattle numbers, both of which affect the levels of ammonia emissions. The reforms of CAP, and specifically the removal of the link between farm production and payments, has also resulted in reduced livestock numbers across the EU-15 and hence also will have indirectly contributed to the decrease in ammonia emissions observed.


Emissions of NH3 are covered by the EU National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD) (2001/81/EC) and the Gothenburg protocol under the United Nations Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention) (UNECE 1999). The NECD generally involves slightly stricter emission reduction targets than the Gothenburg Protocol for EU-15 countries for the period 1990-2010. The Gothenburg Protocol entered into force on 17 May 2005, after ratification by 16 countries early in 2005.The 2012 revision to the Gothenburg protocol proposed emission reduction targets for 2020 relative to 2005 reported emissions for all EU-27 member states, and some EEA-32 non-EU member states.

Table: 2010 NH3 ceilings under the NEC Directive and the Gothenburg Protocol (kt)


2010 NECD

2010 CLRTAP Gothenburg Protocol ceilings

2020 CLRTAP Gothenburg Protocol ceilings

Austria 66 66 62
Belgium 74 74 70
Bulgaria 108 108 56
Cyprus 9 N/A 5
Czech Republic 80 101 64
Denmark 69 69 63
Estonia 29 N/A 10
Finland 31 31 31
France 780 780 634
Germany 550 550 545
Greece 73 73 63
Hungary 90 90 72
Iceland* N/A N/A N/A
Ireland 116 116 108
Italy 419 419 395
Latvia 44 44 15
Liechtenstein N/A 0.15 N/A
Lithuania 84 84 35
Luxembourg 7 7 5
Malta 3 N/A 2
Netherlands 128 128 122
Norway N/A 23 21
Poland 468 468 267
Portugal 90 108 47
Romania 210 210 173
Slovakia 39 39 24
Slovenia 20 20 17
Spain 353 353 357
Switzerland N/A 63 59
Sweden 57 57 47
Turkey* N/A N/A N/A
United Kingdom 297 297 283

* Iceland and Turkey do not have a ceiling under either the NEC Directive or the Gothenburg protocol.

Related policy documents



Methodology for indicator calculation


This indicator is based on officially reported national total and sectoral emissions to EEA and UNECE/EMEP (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe/Cooperative 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 2011. For the EU-27 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 emission inventory estimation are compiled in the EMEP/EEA Air Pollutant Emission Inventory Guidebook, (EMEP/EEA, 2009). Base data are available from the EEA Data Service ( and the EMEP web site ( Where necessary, gaps in reported data are filled by the European Topic Centre/EEA using simple interpolation techniques (see below). The final gap-filled data used in this indicator is available from the EEA Data Service (

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 & 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 households 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 total for entire territory not allocated to any other sector


The following table shows the conversion of Nomenclature for Reporting (NFR) sector codes used for reporting by countries into EEA sector codes:

EEA classification

Non-GHGs (NFR)


National totals

National total


Energy production and distribution

1A1, 1A3e, 1B


Energy use in industry



Road Transport



Non-road transport (non-road mobile machinery)

1A3 (excl. 1A3b)


Industrial processes



Solvent and product use









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 are not yet complete and are 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).

Methodology references



Methodology uncertainty

The use of gap-filling for when countries have not reported 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

NH3 emission estimates in Europe are more uncertain than those for NOX, SO2 and NMVOCs 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


Rationale uncertainty

This indicator is regularly updated by EEA and is used in state of the environment assessments. The uncertainties related to methodology and data sets are therefore of importance. Any uncertainties involved in the calculation and in the data sets need to be accurately communicated in the assessment, to prevent erroneous messages influencing policy actions or processes.

Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
Indicator codes
  • APE 003
Frequency of updates
This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.
EEA Contact Info


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage


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