What progress is being made towards targets for the reduction of ecosystem exposure to acidification, eutrophication and ozone?

Policy Question
Indicator codes: CSI 005 , AIR 004

Key messages

  • In the EU-28, critical loads for acidification were exceeded in 7 % of the ecosystem area in 2010, down from 43 % in 1980. The figure also decreased to 7 % of the ecosystem area across all EEA member countries. There are still some areas where the interim objective for reducing acidification, as defined in the EU's National Emission Ceilings Directive, has not been met. 
  • The EU-28 ecosystem area in which the critical loads for eutrophication were exceeded peaked at 84 % in 1990 and decreased to 63 % in 2010 (55 % in the EEA member countries). The area in exceedance is projected to further decrease to 54 % in 2020 for the EU-28 (48 % in the EEA member countries), assuming current legislation is implemented. The magnitude of the exceedances is also projected to decline considerably in most areas, except for a few 'hot spot' areas in western France and the border areas between Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as in northern Italy.
  • Looking ahead, only 4 % of the EU-28 ecosystem area (3 % in EEA member countries) is projected to exceed 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.
  • For ozone, most of Europe's vegetation and agricultural crops are exposed to ozone levels that exceed the long term objective specified in the EU's Air Quality Directive. A significant fraction is also exposed to levels above the target value threshold defined in the directive. The effect-related concentrations show large year-to-year variations. Over the period 1996-2017, the concentrations observed at rural background stations increased until 2006, after which it decreased. After a six-year period (2009-2014) of relatively low values, the fraction of agricultural crops exposed to levels above the target value increased again to 30 % in 2015. However, at the low end of the exposure spectrum there was an increase in the area with levels below the long-term objective from 15 % (2014) to 24 % (2017).
  • During the past 5 years, around 50-65 % of the forest area was exposed to ozone concentrations above the critical level set by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) for the protection of forests. 

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