Emissions of air pollutants down in EU-27

News Published 21 Aug 2009 Last modified 20 Feb 2017
3 min read
The European Community's air pollutant emission inventory report released by the European Environment Agency finds that in 2007, sulphur oxides (SOx) emissions were down by 72 % from 1990 levels. The downward emission trend of three main pollutants which cause ground-level ozone continued in 2007: carbon monoxide (CO) fell by 57 %, non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) were down by 47 % and nitrogen oxides (NOx) have dropped 36 %. EU-27 emissions of all four pollutants were lower in 2007 than in 2006.

Emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), a seriously health-damaging pollutant, have decreased by 2 % compared to the previous year and by about 12 % since the year 2000. However, reporting of PM emissions from Member States is less complete than for the other main pollutants.

In 2007 the top polluting sources in the EU-27 were fuel combustion in households, passenger cars, heavy duty vehicles, and in power plants.

Other findings of the report include:

  • The residential sector is an important source of several pollutants. Energy use by households (the burning of wood, gas, coal etc) is the most important source of PM2.5 and NMVOC, the second most important source of CO and is a significant source of both SOx and NOx.
  • The road transport sector remains a major source of air pollution in the EU‑27. Heavy duty vehicles are the single most important source of NOx, while passenger cars are among the top 6 polluting sources for CO, NOx, PM2.5 and NMVOC.
  • Power plants producing heat and electricity have reduced emissions significantly since 1990 by improving abatement equipment, switching to cleaner fuels and through improved energy efficiency. However the sector remains a large source of air pollution, responsible for around 60 % of all EU-27 SOx emissions and 20 % of total NOx emissions;
  • Agricultural activities in the EU-27 cause more than 90 % of the EU-27's ammonia (NH3) emissions. Ammonia is a particularly important pollutant with respect to Europe's environment, responsible for eutrophication and acidification of ecosystems.
  • The largest Member States are generally responsible for the most air pollution. France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom contributed the most to EU-27 emissions in 2007.

Reducing emissions of air pollutants brings significant social and economic benefits: fewer premature deaths and lower health care costs, as the toll from pollution-related diseases is also reduced. In addition, as emissions of air pollutant fall, Europe’s environment suffers less harm to crop production and to natural ecosystems, along with less damage to infrastructure and public buildings caused by corrosive pollutants.

Inventory data accessible for experts and the public

The European Environment Agency publishes the data from the report in the air pollutant emissions data viewer, a web-based interface that simplifies access and analysis of the data. The data viewer can show emission trends for the main sectors and allows comparison of emissions between different countries and activities. In addition, the data viewer can produce graphics and key emission estimates.

What is the LRTAP Convention?

Since 1979, the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution has addressed some of the major environmental problems of the member countries of the United Nations' Economic Commission for Europe. The Convention has 51 Parties and aims to limit and, as far as possible, gradually reduce and prevent air pollution including long-range transboundary air pollution.

Each year, the European Environment Agency assists the European Commission by preparing the European Community's inventory report which is reported to the UNECE Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution Convention (LRTAP).

Which air pollutants are covered by the inventory?

Under the LRTAP Convention, Parties (including the European Community) are requested to report emissions data for a number of important air pollutants, including sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), ammonia (NH3), carbon monoxide (CO), primary particulate matter (PM= and PM2.5), heavy metals (HMs) and persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

EU-27: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

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