Press Release

SO2 target reached, CO2 target still uncertain

Press Release Published 22 Jul 1996 Last modified 28 Jun 2016
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SO2target reached, CO2target still uncertain


Copenhagen, 22 July 1996


Today, the EEA announced the first results from its European Topic Centre on Air Emissions (ETC/AEM) 2) establishing state and trends of EU 15 emissions into the air of eight main pollutants (CORINAIR 1)).

These pollutants contribute to several environmental problems : climate change, acidification, tropospheric ozone and (urban) air quality.

Only total emissions for EU 15 are presented at this stage. These results are provisional; the EEA is continuing to work with national authorities to quality assure the data for individual countries and will present these more detailed data within the next few weeks.

European air emissions from 1990 to 1994 (provisional)

In the table the emissions for 1994 as prepared by the EEA's ETC/AEM are presented. For comparison also the emissions for 1990 are presented. The emissions for 1990 are those prepared by the EEA 4) for all compounds, except for NH3 and SO2 for which CORINAIR1990 1) data were used. In all cases emissions from natural sources and CO2 sinks have been excluded.

Pollutant 5) Total 1990

(1000 tonnes)

Total 1994

(1000 tonnes)



SO2 16500 12100 -27
NOx 13600 12300 -10
NMVOC 14400 13900 -3
CH4 24700 22800 -8
CO 52000 43300 -17
CO2 3290000 3230000 -2
N2O 1020 910 -11
NH3 3920 3510 -10



For SO2the downward trend is clear. A reduction of almost 27% has been achieved relative to 1990 emissions, mainly due to several measures in the energy sector, such as shift from coal to gas and low sulphur coal and the installation of Flue Gas Desulphurisation systems. The EU target in the Fifth Environmental Action Programme (5EAP) is a 35 % reduction of the 1985 levels in 2000 3). The actual reduction achieved in 1994 relative to the emissions in 1985 (E12 and Sweden, Finland and Austria) is 39 %. So if these reductions are maintained the EU target has already been reached. The UNECE has set a tighter target (Revised Sulphur Protocol, 1994) related to the closure of the gap between existing deposition of acidifying compounds and the "critical loads". Reduction targets differ for countries but are approximately 63 % related to 1980 levels to achieve the UNECE target of 60 % gap closure 3). The actual reduction in 1994 related to 1980 is 55 %, which means that the UNECE target is close to being met, but still depends on further reduction plans of the countries involved. Furthermore it should be noted that the following statement from the EEA Report 3) is still valid regarding SO2 and NOx emissions (see below) "even meeting the new targets will mean that there are still ecosystems in Europe where critical acid loads are exceeded. Although overall acid deposition levels have decreased (and this will continue in the future, mainly due to SO2emission reduction), critical loads will still be exceeded in more sensitive regions".

The emissions of NOxare showing some decrease (of 10 %), mainly due to the economic recession and the introduction of abatement measures in the transport sector (3-way catalysts) and small decreases in industrial production. The EU target of stabilisation of emissions in 1994 3) on the 1985 level appears to have been met. It is not yet clear whether the second EU target of 30 % emission reduction in 2000 will be met. According to the EEA Report 3) on the likely trend to the year 2000 : "NOxemissions are likely to stabilise or decrease slightly in the future. This is due to traffic growth, although some forecasts suggest that the EU targets for 2000 could be fully met if all current and proposed legislation were fully implemented. The limitations to achievements are related to : the slow rate of turnover of the vehicle fleet (newer engines, 3-way catalytic convertors), problems with the effectiveness of catalytic convertors in practice, the lack of new technologies, the lack of policies for freight transport, the lack of progress in mode switching from road/private transport to public transport, the cost of biofuels". The more recent proposals from the Commission, following from the Auto-Oil Programme, aim at further reducing emissions from new vehicles over the next 10 years and may contribute to some additional reductions in total NOx emissions prior to 2000 (and will produce more significant reductions after 2000 as the vehicle fleet changes). Furthermore care has to be taken regarding the data for emission reduction between 1990 and 1994, because in some countries the methodology for estimating NOx emissions from some sources has changed between 1990 and 1994. Therefore it is needed to update the emission estimates of 1990 using the same (new) methodology. This might lead to lower estimates for the emission in 1990 and therefore less emission decrease. The EEA is presently preparing such an update, which will be published in the near future.

The emissions of CO2are showing a slight reduction of 2 %, mainly due to short-term factors, like temporary decrease of industrial production resulting in lower energy consumption, lower energy consumption in Germany (brown coal) due to restructuring of industry, closing of coal mines in the UK and conversion of power plants to natural gas in several countries. In the EEA Report 3) it was mentioned that "there is great uncertainty about whether the EU will meet the target of stabilisation of the emissions at 1990 level in 2000. The main causes of uncertainty are : continuing transport growth, continuing low energy prices, slow improvement of energy efficiency, many measures in national programmes will not be completed before 2000".

The total anthropogenic emission and percentage change for CO2 are in line with the recently 6) published estimates of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion only. Fossil fuel related emissions account for about 96 percent of the total emissions and the EEA and Eurostat fuel related emission estimates both are based on national energy statistics.

Regarding the other pollutants, all of them show a decrease of emissions, between 3 and 17 %. However the same remark as for NOx should be taken into account, that these reductions may be partly due to change of estimation methodology and that final conclusions can only be drawn after updating the 1990 estimates and finalising the 1994 estimates. As mentioned before, the EEA will publish such an update in the near future.

For further information, please contact:

  • For general questions: Ernst R. Klatte, EEA' Communications Officer, EEA, Copenhagen, tel. +45-33367153, fax. +45-33367199, email :
  • For specific (technical) questions : Dietmar Koch, Project Leader European Topic Centre Air Emissions, AEA, UK, tel. +44-1235463391, fax. +44-1235463005, email

Notes to Editors

  1. EU Council Decision 85/338/EEC (OJ, 1985) established a work programme concerning an "experimental project for gathering, co-ordinating and ensuring the consistency of information on the state of the environment and natural resources in the Community". The work programme was given the name CORINE - "CO-oRdination d'INformation Environnementale" and included a project to gather and organise information on emissions into the air relevant to acid deposition - Corinair. This project started in 1986 with the objective of compiling a co-ordinated inventory of atmospheric emissions from the 12 Member States of the Community in 1985 (Corinair 1985). The Co-operative Programme for Monitoring and Evaluation of the Long Range Transmission of Air Pollutants in Europe (EMEP) formed by a Protocol under the UNECE Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution Convention has developed guidelines for estimation and reporting of emission data for SOx, NOx, NMVOCs, CH4, NH3 and CO under the Convention. The Corinair 1985 Inventory was developed in collaboration with the Member States, Eurostat, OECD and UNECE/EMEP. The Inventory was completed in 1990 and the results have been published (Eurostat, 1991; CEC, 1995) and widely distributed in tabular and map forms. Pending a decision on the location of the EEA, it was agreed in 1991 to produce an update of Corinair for 1990 (Corinair 1990). This update has been performed in co-operation with EMEP and IPCC-OECD to assist in the preparation of inventories required under the UNECE Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) Convention and the Framework Climate Change Convention (FCCC) respectively.
  2. The European Environment Agency (EEA) was set up on 30 October 1993, in Copenhagen, to provide objective, reliable and comparable information for those concerned with framing and implementing European and national environmental policy, and for the public. It is funded by the European Union but its coverage extends beyond the EU 15 countries to include Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, who are represented on the EEA Management Board, and to other countries of Central & Eastern Europe, provided the resources are made available. The EEA co-ordinates the European Environment Information and Observation Network (EIONET), which covers 8 European Topic Centres (ETCs), 18 National Focal Points (from the 18 member states of the EEA, which are the EU15, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and many National Reference Centres appointed for specific topics by the member states. The ETCs are funded from the EEA budget. The activities of the ETCs are described in the EEA's Annual Work Programme and the EEA Annual Report 1995. The CORINAIR system has been integrated in the work programme of the EEA in 1994, and the work is continuing through the ETC on Air Emissions (ETC/AEM). It is the task of the ETC/AEM to develop the methodology and prepare emission inventories for 1994 and subsequent years. The first results for 1994 are now available.
  3. Environment in the European Union (1995): Report for the Review of the Fifth Environmental Action Programme, EEA, 1995.
  4. Second evaluation of national programmes under the monitoring mechanism of community CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions (Commission of the European Communities, COM(96), 91 final);
  5. Sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NO2), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC), methane (CH4), carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), ammonia (NH3).
  6. Eurostat News Release No 25/96 (22 April 1996), "EU Carbon dioxide emissions down".


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