The National Emission reduction Commitments Directive sets national emission reduction commitments for Member States and the EU for five important air pollutants: nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), sulphur dioxide (SO2), ammonia (NH3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). These pollutants contribute to poor air quality, leading to significant negative impacts on human health and the environment.

National Emissions reduction Commitments (NEC) Directive (2016/2284/EU) entered into force on 31 December 2016. Replacing earlier legislation, (Directive 2001/81/EC). The 2016 NEC Directive sets 2020 and 2030 emission reduction commitments for five main air pollutants.

The directive transposes the reduction commitments for 2020 agreed by the EU and its Member States under the 2012 revised Gothenburg Protocol under the Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution Convention (Air Convention). The more ambitious reduction commitments agreed for 2030 are designed to reduce the health impacts of air pollution by half compared with 2005.

Further, the Directive requires that the Member States draw up National Air Pollution Control Programmes that should contribute to the successful implementation of air quality plans established under the EU’s Air Quality Directive.

Reporting air pollutant emission inventories by Member States

The NEC Directive highlights the importance of Member States regularly reporting air pollutant emission inventories for assessing progress in reducing air pollution in the EU and for ascertaining whether Member States are in compliance with their commitments.

The directive introduces a number of new reporting requirements for Member States. These are defined in Annex I of the directive and include annual information on emissions of a number of pollutants:

  • the five main air pollutants NOx, NMVOCs, SO2, NH3 and PM2.5;
  • other polluant: carbon monoxide (CO);
  • in addition to PM2.5, also PM10 particulate matter and, if available, black carbon (BC) and total suspended particulate matter (TSP);
  • heavy metals cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb) and mercury (Hg) and, if available, the additional heavy metals arsenic, chromium, copper, nickel, selenium and zinc;
  • persistent organic pollutants (POPs) including selected polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dioxins and furans, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and hexachlorobenzene (HCB).

To ensure that information on emissions reported by Member States is consistent and harmonised with international requirements, the NEC Directive requires Member States to follow the methodologies agreed upon by the UNECE LRTAP Convention. It also requires that Member States use the EMEP/EEA air pollutant emission inventory guidebook in preparing their inventories.

NEC briefing

Every year, the EEA publishes an annual status briefing that summarises the most recent reported data and progress of EU Member States in meeting their emission reduction commitments.

The latest reported data are made available in an online data viewer and also as a downloadable dataset.

Policies and measures to tackle air pollution

EU Member States were required to report a national air pollution control programme (NAPCP) by 1 April 2019. This included policies and measures (PaMs) that Member States selected as relevant for fulfilling their commitments to reduce emissions set for the periods 2020-2029 and from 2030 onwards. Actions taken to reduce emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases often address the same economic sectors but are reported separately under different EU legislation. An overview of the latest policies and measures reported by Member States to tackle air pollution, as required under the National Emission reduction Commitments (NEC) Directive are available here.

Complete data set on policies and measures reported by Member States can be accessed in the EEA’s Datahub.


The NEC Directive establishes a number of flexibilities (Article 5) that Member States may request to be applied for the purposes of assessing compliance with their emission reduction commitments.

This includes an ‘adjustment’ process, in which Member States may ‘adjust’ downwards their emission inventories. The adjustment is applied if non-compliance with the national reduction commitments is caused by implementing an improved emission inventory methods in accordance with updated scientific knowledge. Member States wishing to adjust their data in this way must first notify the European Commission (EC) by 15 February each year, and subsequently submit a range of documentation (by 15 March each year) for review and decision by the European Commission.