Indicator Assessment

EEA-32 ammonia (NH3) emissions

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-168-en
  Also known as: APE 003
Published 15 Feb 2010 Last modified 11 May 2021
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  • EEA-32 emissions of NH3 have declined by 22% between the years 1990 and 2007. Agriculture was responsible for 93% of NH3 emissions in 2007.
  • 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-one of the EU-27 Member States have already achieved their ceilings. Only Finland, Germany and Spain still need to make significant further reductions in order to meet their respective ceilings under the NECD.
  • 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.

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.

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.

EEA-32 ammonia emissions have decreased by 22% between 1990 and 2007.

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 21 of the EU-27 Member States having already achieved their ceilings. These Member States are: 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, Germany and Spain.

The EFTA-4 (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) and CC-3 (Croatia, FYR of Macedonia and Turkey) countries are not members of the European Union and hence have no emission ceilings set under the NECD. However, Switzerland and Norway have ratified the Gothenburg Protocol, requiring them to reduce their emissions to the agreed ceiling specified in the protocol by 2010. Switzerland and Norway both already report emissions below the level of their respective ceilings under the Gothenburg Protocol ceiling.


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 (93% of total 2007 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. Emissions from road transport, although relatively small have been rising 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 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.

NH3 emissions have also declined in countries outside the European Union (EFTA-4 and CC-3 countries) between 1990 and 2007. Again this is primarily due to reductions which have occurred in the agricultural sector as a result of decreasing animal numbers.


Supporting information

Indicator definition

  • The indicator tracks trends since 1990 in anthropogenic emissions of ammonia.
  • The indicator also provides information on emissions by sectors: Energy industries; road and other transport; industry (processes and energy); other (energy); fugitive emissions; waste; agriculture and other (non energy).
  • Geographical coverage: EU-27 for comparison with EU National Emission Ceilings Directive. Other analyses include data for EFTA-4 (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Norway) and FYR of Macedonia, Croatia and Turkey. The EEA-32 country grouping includes EU-27, EFTA-4 and Turkey.
  • Temporal coverage: 1990-2007


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 4 pollutants as addressed in the NECD (i.e. NH3, SO2, 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 30th 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 21st 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.

Table: Percentage reduction (#) required by 2010 from 1990 levels by country, for emissions of NH3


1990 - 2010: NECD ceilings

1990 - 2010: CLRTAP Gothenburg ceilings













Czech Republic
























Iceland *

























































United Kingdom




# The actual 2010 emission ceilings specified in the NECD and Gothenburg Protocol are expressed as absolute emissions of SO2, NOx, NH3 and NMVOC (in ktonnes). For the purposes of this indicator 1990 is considered as a 'base year' and the percentage change to emissions to meet the ceilings is calculated. Reported emissions for past years may change reflecting e.g. updated and revised emission inventory guidance, and so the % reduction required to meet the CLRTAP and NECD targets as shown here may change slightly in the future.

 * Emissions data not available for Iceland.

Related policy documents

  • 1999 Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone
    Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution 1999 Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone, amended on 4 May 2012.
  • Directive 2001/81/EC, national emission ceilings
    Directive 2001/81/EC, on nation al emissions ceilings (NECD) for certain atmospheric pollutants. Emission reduction targets for the new EU10 Member States have been specified in the Treaty of Accession to the European Union 2003  [The Treaty of Accession 2003 of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia. AA2003/ACT/Annex II/en 2072] in order that they can comply with the NECD.


Methodology for indicator calculation

Indicator is based on officially reported national total and sectoral emissions to UNECE/EMEP (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe/Co-operative 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 2009. Recommended methodologies for emission inventory estimation are compiled in the EMEP/CORINAIR Atmospheric Emission Inventory guidebook, EEA Copenhagen (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 ETC/ACC using simple interpolation techniques (see below). The final gap-filled data used in this indicator is available from the EEA Data Service (

 This base data, reported in SNAP, draft NFR or NFR are aggregated into the following EEA sector codes to obtain a common reporting format across all countries and pollutants:

  • 'Energy industries': emissions from public heat and electricity generation, oil refining and production of solid fuels;
  • 'Fugitive emissions': Emissions from extraction and distribution of solid fossil fuels and geothermal energy;
  • 'Industry (Energy)': emissions from combustion processes used in the manufacturing industry including boilers, gas turbines and stationary engines;
  • 'Industry (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;
  • 'Off-road transport': railways, domestic shipping, certain aircraft movements, and non-road mobile machinery used in agriculture & forestry;
  • 'Other (energy-related)' emissions principally occurring from fuel combustion in the services and household sectors;
  • 'Other (Non Energy)': 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;
  • 'Unallocated': The difference between the reported national total and the sum of the sectors reported by a country.

The 'unallocated' sector corresponds to the difference between the reported national total and the sum of the reported sectors for a given pollutant / country / year combination. It can be either negative or positive. Inclusion of this additional sector means that the officially reported national totals do not require adjustment to ensure that they are consistent with the sum of the individual sectors reported by countries.

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

EEA classification

NFR Emission Source Category

0 National totals

National total

1 Energy Industries


3 Industry (energy)


2 Fugitive emissions


7 Road transport


8 Other transport (non-road mobile machinery)

1A3 (exl 1A3b)

9 Industry processes


4 Agriculture

4 + 5B

5 Waste


6 Other (energy)

1A4a, 1A4b, 1A4b(i), 1A4c(i), 1A5a

10 Other (non-energy)

3 + 7

12 Energy industries (power and heat production)


14 Unallocated

Difference between national total and sum of sectors (1 - 10)


Methodology for gap filling

Methodology of data manipulation: EEA/ETC-ACC gap-filling methodology. To allow trend analysis where countries have not reported data for one or several years, data has been interpolated to derive annual emissions. If the reported data is missing either at the beginning or at the end of the time series period, the emission value has been considered to equal the first (or last) reported emission value. It is recognised that the use of gap-filling 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.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.



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 on emissions of ammonia is produced annually by EEA and is used regularly in its State of the Environment reporting. 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
EEA Contact Info


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage


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