Air pollution - National Responses (Germany)

SOER 2010 Common environmental theme (Deprecated) expired
Topics: ,
This content has been archived on 21 Mar 2015, reason: A new version has been published
SOER Common environmental theme from Germany
Air pollution Air pollution
more info
German Federal Environment Agency
Organisation name
German Federal Environment Agency
Reporting country
Organisation website
Organisation website
Contact link
Contact link
Last updated
23 Nov 2010
Content license
CC By 2.5
Content provider
German Federal Environment Agency
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 21 Mar 2015 Feed synced: 23 Nov 2010 original

Air pollution control in Germany is based essentially on three strategies:

  1. definition of air quality standards, mainly for protection against risk, compliance with which must be assured through appropriate instruments like air pollution control plans, plant approval under the Federal Emission Control Act;

  2. emission-limiting requirements for relevant sources in line with the state of the art and the best available technology, and bans on individual products;

  3. definition of ceilings through restrictions on national emission loads for relevant mass pollutants – national caps on emissions from all sources.

Since a substantial proportion of pollution is caused by long-haul air transport from neighbouring countries, trans-national air pollution control policy is of strategic importance for air quality in Germany.

Air pollution control takes all relevant sources and pollutants into consideration and combats atmospheric pollution from many angles; important instruments include:

  • quality of fuels, for example the sulphur content of petrol and heating oil, and consumables, for example low-solvent coatings;

  • emission limit values in line with the state of the art for individual sources – from motorcycles to power stations;

  • type approval for small sources such as passenger cars, approval procedure for large plants and road construction projects, regular monitoring of emissions;

  • nationwide, continuous monitoring of air quality through monitoring networks and increasingly through model calculations and satellite observation;

  • limit values and regulatory mechanisms, in the event that the limit values are exceeded – air pollution control plans, action plans, etc.

On the basis of international agreements, the German sustainability strategy has laid down a reduction of 70 % on average in the pollution load of the air for emissions of SO2, NOx, ammonia gas (NH3) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) by 2010, taking 1990 as the base year. To monitor the extent to which the targets are achieved these four pollutants are recorded as percentage change in emissions compared with 1990. So far particulate matter has not been considered in this context.

The airborne pollutant index shows the mean value of the relative growth in emissions of these four pollutants. It indicates a decrease of more than 56 % in the mean percentage emissions of the gases in question compared with 1990. Thus, 80 % of the indicator target has been achieved.

This result can be attributed mainly to sector-specific individual measures:

In the period 1990 to 2007, SO2 emissions were reduced by more than 90 % through power station desulphurisation, fuel switching and the imposition of statutory limits on the sulphur contents in liquid fuels. Equally significant reductions of 66 % were achieved in the area of VOC without methane, mainly as a result of the use of catalytic converter technology in the road traffic sector, products with a lower solvent content and the reduced consumption of solvents in the industrial and commercial areas. The equipping of motor vehicles with catalytic converters, in addition to the use of denitrification plants in power stations, are primarily responsible for the reduction in emissions of NOX to 45 %. Only small reductions of around 16 % could be achieved in NH3 emissions, mainly from agriculture. They were the result of the reduction in the numbers of livestock especially directly after reunification. Since the middle of the 1990s emissions of NH3 gas from the agricultural sector have also dominated the total growth in acidifying emissions, i.e. SO2, NOX and NH3 taken together. If one calculates the acidification potential of these three pollutants, because of the considerably greater reduction in emissions of SO2, and even of NOX, what one sees is an increasing impact from NH3 and thus from agriculture. The share of emissions of this particular acidifying substance increased from 16 % in 1990 to more than 45 % in 2007.

Compliance with the agreed ceilings for a number of pollutants thus presupposes further reduction measures. In order to achieve the objectives of the NEC Directive, the Federal Government published the National Programme for the Reduction of Ozone Concentrations and for Compliance with Emissions Ceilings in 2007, implementation of which is expected to bring about further reductions in O3 concentrations and ensure compliance with the national emissions ceilings for the four airborne pollutants.


The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

Sign up to receive our reports (print and/or electronic) and quarterly e-newsletter.
Follow us
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100