Indicator Assessment

Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) emissions

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-167-en
  Also known as: APE 004
Published 20 Dec 2012 Last modified 11 May 2021
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    • EEA-32 emissions of non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) have decreased by 53% since 1990. In 2010, the most significant sources of NMVOC emissions were 'Solvent and product use' (42%), comprising activities such as paint application, dry-cleaning and other use of solvents, followed by 'Commercial, institutional and households' (18%).
    • 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 and carbon canisters on petrol cars for evaporative emission control, 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, and changes 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-27 Member States have reduced emissions since 1990 in line with their obligations under the National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD), however two Member States have not met their ceilings (Germany and Spain)[1]. Emissions in 2010 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.

[1] 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.

This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.

Change in emissions of non-methane volatile organic compounds compared with the 2010 NECD and 2020 Gothenburg protocol targets (EEA member countries)

Note: The reported change in NMVOC emissions for each country, 1990-2010, in comparison with the 2010 NECD and 2020 Gothenburg protocol targets.

Distance-to-target for EEA member countries

Note: The distance-to-target indicator shows how current NMVOC emissions compare to a linear emission reduction 'target-path' between 2010 emission levels and the 2020 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 2020.

EEA-32 emissions of NMVOCs have decreased by 53% since 1990. Within the EEA-32 group of countries, all have reported lower emissions in 2010 compared to 1990 except Hungary (90% higher in 2010), Turkey (49%) and Romania (19%).

The large increase in Hungary is due chiefly to significant changes in the reported emissions from road transport, which are zero in 1990 and represent around half of the total emissions in later years.

The EU-27 Member States have, in general, achieved reductions in emissions in line with their obligations under the National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD), however two Member States reported national NMVOC emissions under NECD in 2010 above the level of their emission ceilings set in the NECD. NMVOC emissions in Germany and Spain for the year 2010 were just 2% and 1% respectively over their ceilings, and all are considered broadly on track towards meeting their continuing obligations under the NECD by 2011. As can be seen in Fig 2, although Denmark reported emissions under CLRTAP which were above the level of their ceiling, emissions reported under NECD were within their 2010 ceiling for NMVOC.

Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey are not members of the European Union and hence have no emission ceilings set under the NECD. However, 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. All three countries have reported emissions in 2010 that were lower than their respective 2010 Gothenburg Protocol ceilings, and as such have met their Gothenburg Protocol obligations in 2010.

The NECD protocol is currently being reviewed, as 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 revision of the Gothenburg protocol was published in June 2012, and proposed percentage emission reductions from 2005 levels to be met by 2020 for the four already regulated substances (NOX, NMVOC, SO2 and NH3) and in addition for primary emissions of PM2.5. Existing emission ceilings for 2010 have been extended to 2020 such that all countries have additional obligations to maintain emission levels below their 2010 ceilings, or to further reduce emissions if they have not yet met these ceilings.

Emissions reported for 2010 indicate that the majority of Member States are on track towards meeting their obligations for 2020 emissions under the revised Gothenburg protocol. Six countries reported 2010 emissions higher than the linear path to their 2020 targets, however for two of these the difference was less than 2% of 2005 emissions. Emissions in 2010 in three countries were more than 10% of their 2005 totals above the linear path to 2020 emission reduction targets, and these countries may therefore require significant further measures to be taken before 2020 if they are to achieve the reductions specified in the revised Gothenburg protocol.

Sector share of non-methane volatile organic compounds emissions - 2010 (EEA member countries)

Note: The contribution made by different sectors to emissions of non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) in 2010.

Change in non-methane volatile organic compounds emissions for each sector between 1990 and 2010 (EEA member countries)

Note: Percentage change in non-methane volatile organic compound (NMVOC) emissions for each sector between 1990 and 2010.

Contribution to total change in non-methane volatile organic compounds emissions for each sector (EEA member countries)

Note: The contribution made by each sector to the total change in non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) emissions between 1990 and 2010.

In 2010, the most significant sources of NMVOC emissions were 'Solvent and product use' (42% of EEA-32 NMVOC emissions), comprising activities such as paint application, dry-cleaning and other use of solvents, 'Commercial, institutional and households' (18%), 'Road transport' (16%) and 'Energy production and distribution' (10%) sectors.

The decline in emissions since 1990 has primarily been due to the significant reduction achieved in the road transport sector, which has been due to the increased penetration rate of three-way catalytic converters (in which NMVOCs are oxidized to CO2 and H2O), and cars fitted with carbon canisters for evaporative emission control in the European vehicle fleet, reflecting introduction of measures such as the Euro vehicle emission standards and EU Fuel Quality Directives. This has been enhanced by the switching from petrol to diesel cars in the fleet in some EU countries. NMVOC emissions from diesel and petrol cars differ due to the different engine characteristics and properties of the fuels, broadly as a result of the lower volatility of diesel fuel. The road transport sector has contributed 53% of the total reduction in NMVOC emissions reported by countries in the EEA-32 since 1990.

Significant reductions have also been achieved in the 'Solvent and product use' sector reflecting, amongst other measures, the introduction and implementation of the Solvent Emissions and Paints Directives. For example, Switzerland and Denmark reported a decline in emissions of 35% and 56% from this sector, largely as a result of compliance with the Solvents Directive, which contributed significantly to reducing their national emissions from 1990 to 2010.

Supporting information

Indicator definition

  • The 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 NMVOCs. 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 (SO2, nitrogen oxides (NOx), ammonia (NH3) 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. SO2, NOx, NH3 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.
  • 1991 Geneva Protocol to the LRTAP Convention on the control of emissions of volatile organic compounds. This protocol entered into force in September 1997 and it required a 30% reduction in VOCs by 1999 from a base year between 1984 and 1990.
  • VOC Solvents Directive (1999/13/EC). This is the main policy instrument for reducing industrial emissions of VOCs within the European Union. It covers a wide range of solvent activities including printing, surface cleaning, vehicle coating, dry cleaning and the manufacture of footwear and pharmaceutical products. Installations either have to comply with the emission limit values set out in the Directive or with the requirements of a reduction scheme. Existing installations had to comply by the 31st October 2007, with new installations having to comply from the date of commencement of activities.  This Directive has now been amended through Article 13 of the Paints Directive (2004/42/EC).
  • Directive 94/63/EC aims to prevent VOC emissions into the atmosphere during the storage of petrol at terminals and its distribution from terminals to service stations. This is known as Stage 1 petrol vapour recovery. The Commission's proposal for Stage 2 petrol vapour recovery covering emissions associated with the refuelling of petrol cars at service stations expected to be available by the end of 2008. 
  • 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 into a single legislative instrument. 
  • The aim of the Directive 96/62/EC on ambient air quality assessment and management (the 'Air Quality Framework Directive') is to maintain and improve air quality within the European Community by establishing objectives for ambient air, drawing up common methods and criteria for assessing air quality and obtaining and disseminating information. The second "Daughter" Directive 2000/69/EC sets limit values for benzene concentrations (a NMVOC) to be achieved throughout the community.
  • Since the early 1990s standards on NMVOC emissions from new cars sold in Europe have been in place. This first came about with EU Directive 91/441/EC, which effectively mandated the fitting of three-way catalysts to all new petrol cars to significantly reduce emissions of CO, hydrocarbons (NMVOCs) and NOx. Standards for this Directive, frequently referred to as Euro 1, were followed by Euro 2 standards implemented by Directive 94/12/EC during the mid 1990s. Yet more stringent EU Directives have been put in place to reduce hydrocarbon emissions further, the most recent being (98/69/EC) setting emission limits for petrol cars sold after 2000 and then after 2005 (Euro 3 and 4 standards respectively).
  • Hydrocarbon emissions from diesel vehicles have also been regulated since the early 1990s (since 1988 for heavy duty vehicles) with a succession of more stringent EU Directives. The legislation currently in force for heavy duty vehicles is 2005/55/EC and 2005/78/EC (implementing provisions) which define the emission standard currently in force, Euro IV, as well as the next stage (Euro V) which entered into force in October 2008. 
  • Directive 97/68/EC and subsequent amending acts on the emissions of pollutants from internal combustion engines installed in non-road mobile machinery sets emission standards for hydrocarbons and type approval procedures for engines fitted to non-road mobile machinery.


Emissions of NMVOC are covered by the EU National Emissions 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 NMVOC ceilings under the NEC Directive and the Gothenburg Protocol (kt)


2010 NECD

2010 CLRTAP Gothenburg Protocol ceilings

2020 CLRTAP Gothenburg Protocol ceilings

Austria 159 159 128
Belgium 139 144 113
Bulgaria 175 185 68
Cyprus 14 N/A 8
Czech Republic 220 220 149
Denmark 85 85 72
Estonia 49 N/A 37
Finland 130 130 89
France 1050 1100 702
Germany 995 995 995
Greece 261 261 101
Hungary 137 137 119
Iceland* N/A N/A N/A
Ireland 55 55 42
Italy 1159 1159 856
Latvia 136 136 53
Liechtenstein N/A 0.86 N/A
Lithuania 92 92 60
Luxembourg 9 9 8
Malta 12 N/A 3
Netherlands 185 191 163
Norway N/A 195 131
Poland 800 800 445
Portugal 180 202 172
Romania 523 523 319
Slovakia 140 140 60
Slovenia 40 40 29
Spain 662 669 655
Switzerland N/A 144 72
Sweden 241 241 148
Turkey* N/A N/A N/A
United Kingdom 1200 1200 740

* 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/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 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 ETC/ACC using simple interpolation techniques (see below). The final gap-filled data used in this indicator are available from the EEA Data Service (

Base data, reported in the UNECE/EMEP Nomenclature for Reporting (NFR) sector format are 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

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

NMVOC emission estimates in Europe are thought to have an uncertainty of about ±30% due in part to the difficulty in obtaining good emission estimates for some sectors and partly due to the absence of good activity data for some sources. 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 004
Frequency of updates
This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.
EEA Contact Info


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage


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