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Briefing

National Emission reduction Commitments Directive reporting status 2020

Briefing Published 30 Jun 2020 Last modified 27 Aug 2020
11 min read
Photo: © Igor Flek on Unsplash
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This briefing presents progress made by the EU and its Member States1 towards meeting the 2010 emission ceilings that were applicable until the end of 2019 under Directive 2016/2284/EU — the National Emission reduction Commitments (NEC) Directive — on the reduction of national emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants. In addition, it assesses the emission reduction effort — compared with 2018 emissions levels — required by each country to comply with the 2020 and 2030 reduction commitments set out in the Directive.

Key messages

  • In 2018, the EU met the 2010 emission ceilings set for total emissions of four main air pollutants: nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and ammonia (NH3).

  • EU emissions of NH3 plateaued after five consecutive years of increased emissions from 2013 to 2017. While emissions fell by 1.5 % from 2017 to 2018, emission levels in 2018 were higher than in 2010.

  • In 2018, five Member States exceeded their 2010 national emission ceilings for NH3, while one also exceeded its NMVOC ceiling.

  • Since 2016, all Member States have been in compliance with their national emission ceilings for NOx and SO2.

  • The majority of Member States and the United Kingdom must make additional efforts to reduce emission levels to meet their 2020 reduction commitments. Reductions in economic activity across Europe in 2020 associated with the COVID-19 lockdowns is expected to lower emissions and may boost progress towards meeting reduction commitments.

  • All EU Member States will need to reduce their NOx emissions, moreover half of them will need to reduce fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions by more than 30 % below 2018 levels to achieve the 2030 reduction commitments.

Comparison of Member States’ emissions with the NEC Directive ceilings

Air pollution continues to be one of the major challenges in Europe 1 , harming human health and the environment. It contributes to respiratory problems, shortening lives and increasing medical costs. Air pollution also causes the eutrophication of ecosystems and reduces agricultural yields. In addition, certain air pollutants act as greenhouse gases (GHGs) and drive climate change (EEA, 2019).

 

In 2018, all Member States were in compliance with NOx and SO2 emission ceilings. 

NH3 emissions stopped increasing after five consecutive years of emissions level increases (2013-2017).

Five Member States have NH3 emissions higher than their ceilings.

The NEC Directive (EU, 2016) ensured that the emission ceilings for 2010 (established under the 2001 NEC Directive) remained applicable until the end of 2019. New emission reduction commitments apply for 2020-2029 and for 2030 onwards. Under the new directive, Member States report annual emission inventory information from 1990 — or from 2000 in the case of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) — to 2 years before the present.The analysis presented here is based on the latest air pollutant emissions inventory data for the period 2010-2018, as reported by Member States in February 2020. The briefing also provides an assessment of the emission reductions against 2018 emission levels that are required for Member States and the United Kingdom to meet their respective 2020 and 2030 reduction commitments.


Emission levels for the four main air pollutants (NH3, NMVOC, NOx and SO2) across the EU have been well below the emission ceilings since 2012.


Table 1 provides an overview of progress towards meeting 2010 emission ceilings for four key pollutants for 2010-2018, both for EU Member States and for the EU-28. The NEC Directive does not include a 2010 ceiling for PM2.5.


25 Member States lowered their PM2.5 emissions between 2017 and 2018.

Table 1. EU Member States’ progress towards meeting 2010 NEC Directive emission ceilings

Table 1. EU Member States’ progress

Notes:
 indicates that the emission ceiling has been met.
 indicates that the emission ceiling has not been met.
The compliance check against current emission ceilings takes into account adjustment applications approved by the European Commission in 2019; new adjustment applications submitted in 2020 are not taken into account (see Box 1). All adjustment applications will be reviewed by the Commission. If approved, the number of Member States exceeding one or more emission ceilings could change. Resubmissions reported by 5th June have been taken into account.

 

Box 1. ‘Adjustments’ to emission inventories under the National Emission reduction Commitments Directive

Consistent with a similar procedure agreed by parties to the Gothenburg Protocol of the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, the National Emission reduction Commitments Directive (Article 5) establishes a process that allows Member States to ‘adjust’ their emission inventories downwards if non-compliance with the national ceilings is caused by Member States having applied emission inventory methods that have subsequently been updated in accordance with new scientific knowledge available since the 2010 ceilings were originally set.

Member States wishing to adjust their data in this way must first notify the European Commission (by 15 February each year) and subsequently submit a range of documentation (by 15 March each year) for review.

Adjustment applications for sub-sectors and pollutants that were approved by the Commission in 2019 are taken into account in the present note, so that it is possible to identify whether ceilings have been respected. However, new adjustment applications submitted in 2020 are currently under evaluation and are not taken into account here. The number of ceilings exceeded by Member States given here is, therefore, still subject to change.

Ammonia (NH3)

Five Member States, namely Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Ireland and Spain, exceeded their NH3 ceilings in 2018. The highest exceedances, in percentage terms, were reported for Spain (33 %) and Germany (19 %). Denmark reported the lowest exceedance, at less than 1 %. Germany was the largest emitter of NH3, followed by France and Spain.

Between 2017 and 2018, 22 EU Member States reported emission reductions for NH3. This translated into an overall reduction in EU emissions of 1.5 % — the first decrease seen since 2013.

Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs)

In 2018, only Czechia exceeded its national ceiling for NMVOCs, by 5 %. Germany was the largest emitter of NMVOCs in 2018, followed by Italy and the United Kingdom.

Following a small increase of around 1 % in EU emissions of NMVOCs from 2016 to 2017, in 2018 emissions fell by 2 %. Overall, emissions of NMVOCs have fallen by 30 % since 2005.

Nitrogen oxides (NOx)

Since 2016, all Member States have been in compliance with their NOx emission ceilings. The overall emission reduction from 2005 levels is about 40 %, with a reduction of about 4 % from 2017 and 2018.

In absolute terms, Germany was the largest emitter of NOx in 2018, followed by the United Kingdom and Poland.

Sulphur dioxide (SO2)

In 2018, all Member States were in compliance with their emission ceilings for SO2. Poland was the largest emitter of SO2, followed by Germany and Spain.

From 2017 to 2018, almost all Member States (24 out of 28) reported emission reductions, translating into an aggregate reduction of 6 %. EU emissions of SO2 have fallen by 75 % since 2005.

Fine particulate matter (PM2.5)

The NEC Directive does not include a 2010 ceiling for primary PM2.5. Italy was the largest emitter of PM2.5 in 2018, followed by France and Poland.

From 2017 to 2018, 25 Member States reported reduced emissions of PM2.5, delivering an overall EU reduction of 4 %. EU emissions of PM2.5 have fallen by 26 % since 2005.

Further effort is needed to meet national emission reduction commitments for 2020 and 2030

The NEC Directive ensured that the 2010 emission ceilings applied until the end of 2019. The collective efforts of Member States have resulted in total EU emissions of the four main pollutants (NOx, NMVOC, NH3 and SO2) being well below their respective ceilings for every year since 2012. Nevertheless, progress so far is insufficient to reach the more ambitious emission reduction commitments set for the period 2020-2029 and even more so for 2030 onwards.

An increased level of ambition on the part of Member States is required if they are to attain their long-term emission reduction commitments.

Photo credits: Bosco verticale / haaijk.nl on Flickr

Table 2 shows the percentage reductions against 2018 emission levels2 required for Member States and the United Kingdom to reach their emission reduction commitments. The emission reduction is calculated as the percentage difference between 2018 reported emissions and the emission reduction commitments for 2020 and 2030.

Countries are divided into five groups:

  • countries where current emission levels are below the emission reduction commitment

  • countries that need to reduce emissions by less than 10 %

  • countries that need to reduce emissions by 10 % to 30 %

  • countries that need to reduce emissions by 30 % to 50 %

  • countries that need to reduce emissions by more than 50 %.

Looking at 2020, 2018 emission levels suggest that more than half of the countries are likely to attain the emission reduction commitments set for the period 2020-2029. This is supported by the results of an analysis of projected emissions reported by Member States in 2019 (European Commission, 2020). NH3, NOx and PM2.5 present major challenges.

16 countries

need to reduce NOx emissions by more than 30 %.

5 countries
have to halve 
their PM2.5 emissions

However, the lockdowns implemented across Europe to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and the subsequent reduced economic activity in 2020 can be expected to affect emissions, in particular in the transport sector, with reduced emissions, especially of NOx, expected.

  • Cyprus, Germany, Lithuania, Poland and Romania need to deliver NOx emission reductions of more than 10 % compared with 2018 levels. An additional seven countries need to reduce emissions by up to 10 %. Significant reductions in road transport in 2020 due to the COVID-19 lockdowns may facilitate the attainment of these commitments for 2020.

  • Six Member States (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Hungary and Romania) and the United Kingdom need to reduce PM2.5 emission levels by more than 10 % compared with 2018 levels. An additional four Member States need to reduce their emissions by up to 10 %. The impact of the lockdowns on PM2.5 emissions is difficult to predict at this stage, as the situation is still evolving.

  • The principal source of NH3 emissions is agriculture, a sector subject to far fewer COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. Twelve Member States and the United Kingdom need to reduce NH3 emissions by up to 10 % against 2018 levels to attain their emission reduction commitments. This is significant, as in many countries NH3 emissions have decreased only slightly, or in some cases increased, since 2005. Denmark and Lithuania need to reduce emissions by more than 10 %.

  • Seven Member States need to reduce their NMVOC emissions, while SO2 emissions need to be reduced in three Member States.

Table 2. Percentage emission reductions still required by EU Member States compared with 2018 emissions to meet 2020 and 2030 emission reduction commitments

Table 2

The effective implementation of the NEC Directive will be key to reaching the zero pollution goal of the new European Green Deal.

Looking ahead to delivering on the ambition of the European Green Deal

Effective implementation of the NEC Directive represents a milestone in the delivery of the Clean Air Package and is an essential component of the Zero Pollution Action Plan of the European Commission’s European Green Deal (EU, 2019). It will be vital that EU Member States meet the emission reduction commitments set for 2020-2029 and for 2030 onwards.

Given current emission levels and an analysis of reported projected emissions, a steadfast approach to meeting targets is required. All Member States need to lower 2018 emission levels by more than 10 % for at least one pollutant. The greatest challenges relate to reducing emissions of NH3, NOx and PM2.5.


  • All Member States need to reduce NOx emissions, with 16 of these requiring reductions of more than 30 %. Germany and Malta will need to halve emissions.

  • Five Member States (Cyprus, Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Romania) will need to halve PM2.5 emissions, and an additional six Member States (Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain) will need to reduce emissions by more than 30 %.

  • Reducing NH3 emissions will continue to be a major challenge. Half of the Member States will need to lower emissions by more than 10 % to reach their 2030 commitments. Strong action is required to reduce emissions from the agricultural sector.

  • Significant action will be needed to reduce SO2 and NMVOC emissions in 15 Member States.

Effective and strong policies in the energy, transport and agriculture sectors are essential to ensure that 2030 targets are met.

The proposal for the first European Climate Law (EU, 2020) aims to achieve net zero GHG emissions for EU Member States, mainly by cutting GHG emissions, investing in green technologies and protecting the natural environment. This legislative package will also play a key role in establishing national policies and measures as announced by Member States in their National Air Pollution Control Programmes (NAPCPs). A review of NAPCPs carried out by the European Commission in 2019 (European Commission, 2020) indicated that many Member States are not on track to meet their 2030 emission reduction commitments. Ensuring consistency with National Energy and Climate Plans should result in an increased level of ambition in future revisions to NAPCPs. This requires a focus on delivering synergies in reducing both air pollutants and GHGs, especially across the energy (production and consumption), transport and agricultural sectors.

More information

Access the complete data set reported by Member States in the EEA’s online data viewer.

In this briefing, the assessments of compliance against the NEC Directive 2010 emission ceilings or past emissions trends consider the Member States as the EU-28, because the data analysed are from the time when the United Kingdom was still an EU Member State; the assessments of effort towards future targets refer to the EU Member States and the United Kingdom separately, since they relate to the post-Brexit period.

Footnotes

1 Croatia joined the EU in mid-2013, so for the years 2010-2013, Croatia’s emissions and ceilings are not considered.

2 Compliance rules relating to the reduction commitments are taken into account: emissions from sectors 3B (manure management) and 3D (agricultural soils) are not included in NOx and NMVOC emissions; for those countries allowed to use “transport fuel used” emissions for compliance, these emissions have been taken into account. (This applies to Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. In accordance with its National Air Pollution Control Programme, Austria has decided to use emissions based on fuel sold for compliance checking against the emission reduction commitments; its emissions have been treated accordingly.) Adjustment applications have not been taken into account.

References

EEA, 2019, Air quality in Europe — 2019 report, EEA Report No 10/2019, European Environment Agency.

EU, 2016, Directive (EU) 2016/2284 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 December 2016 on the reduction of national emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants, amending Directive 2003/35/EC and repealing Directive 2001/81/EC (OJ L 344, 17.12.2016, p. 1-31).

EU, 2019, ‘A European Green Deal’.

EU, 2020, ‘European Climate Law’.

European Commission, 2020, Commission report to the European Parliament and the Council on the progress made on the implementation of Directive (EU) 2016/2284 on the reduction of national emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants.

Identifiers


Briefing no. 04/2020
Title: National Emission reduction Commitments Directive reporting status 2020
PDF - TH-AM-20-006-EN-N - ISBN 978-92-9480-241-5 - ISSN 2467-3196 - doi: 10.2800/30372
HTML - TH-AM-20-006-EN-Q - ISBN 978-92-9480-242-2 - ISSN 2467-3196 - doi: 10.2800/40509

The withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union did not affect the production of this briefing. Data reported by the United Kingdom are included in all analyses and assessments contained herein, unless otherwise indicated.

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