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National emission limits for certain air pollutants

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National emission limits for certain air pollutants

The EU is committed to ensuring that the public is protected against health risks from air pollution and that the levels of pollution which do exist do not damage the environment.

ACT

Directive 2001/81/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2001 on national emission ceilings for certain atmospheric pollutants.

SUMMARY

The EU is committed to ensuring that the public is protected against health risks from air pollution and that the levels of pollution which do exist do not damage the environment.

WHAT DOES THE DIRECTIVE DO?

It sets limits on total national emissions from four pollutants - sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and ammonia. These can cause acidification (e.g. the chemical composition of the sea acidifies), water and soil pollution (eutrophication) and ground-level ozone (ozone resulting from the reaction of the four pollutants with heat and sunlight). EU action continues to be necessary because of the persisting transboundary nature of these pollutants. The limits are staging posts towards more ambitious longer-term objectives.

KEY POINTS

EU countries had to ensure that, by 2010, emissions of the four pollutants were below the ceilings set out in the legislation and remained below in subsequent years.

Each country had to draw up a national programme by 1 October 2002 to meet these targets. These were to contain the policies and measures to be taken and their likely impact. If necessary, they were to be updated in 2006.

The programmes were and still are to be made available to the public and environmental and other organisations.

National authorities have to produce annual emission inventories and projections and submit these to the Commission and the European Environment Agency by the end of each year.

The Commission was to assess the progress made and report to the European Parliament and the Council in 2012.

The legislation does not cover international maritime and aircraft emissions, or emissions in the Canaries, France’s overseas departments, Madeira or the Azores.

Since air pollution is an international problem that crosses national frontiers, the EU acceded, in June 2003, to the Protocol to the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-Level Ozone.

In 2013, the Commission noted that Europe's air quality had improved significantly, but was still failing to meet the targets set. The assessment, set out in its communication ‘A clean air programme for Europe’, was accompanied by proposed legislation.

This is designed to replace the original legislation (Directive 2001/81/EC), to extend the national emission ceilings to 2020 and to introduce new ones for 2025.

For more information, see the European Commission’s web page on national emission ceilings.

REFERENCES

Act

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2001/81/EC

27.11.2001

27.11.2002

OJ L 309, 27.11.2001, pp. 22-30

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Accession Treaty

1.5.2004

-

OJ L 236, 23.9.2003, pp. 703-707

Directive 2006/105/EC

1.1.2007

1.1.2007

OJ L 363, 20.12.2006, pp. 368-408

Regulation (EC) No 219/2009

20.4.2009

-

OJ L 87, 31.3.2009, pp. 109-154

Directive 2013/17/EU

1.7.2013

1.7.2013

OJ L 158, 10.6.2013, pp. 193-229

RELATED ACTS

Council Decision 2003/507/EC of 13 June 2003 on the accession of the European Community, to the Protocol to the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-Level Ozone (Official Journal L 179, 17.7.2003, pp. 1-2).

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: A clean air programme for Europe (COM(2013) 918 final of 18.12.2013).

Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the reduction of national emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants and amending Directive 2003/35/EC (COM(2013) 920 final of 18.12.2013).

Last updated: 21.05.2015

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