National Limits on Atmospheric Pollutants

There are national limits in respect of certain atmospheric pollutants.  They apply to sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, volatile organic compounds and ammonia.  National emission ceilings were provided by the end of 2010.  The purpose of the emission ceilings was to meet specific environmental objectives so that the critical loads of acid depositions are reduced by at least 50 per cent relative to 1990 levels

  • Ground level ozone loads above the critical levels for human health reduced by two-thirds compared with 1990.
  • Ground level ozone loads above the critical level for crops and vegetation reduced by one-third compared with 1990.

Member states must provide an update of national emission inventories and report them to the commission.  The commission must report to the European parliament.

There are limited values for member states on emissions of nitrogen dioxide.  There are also guide values designed to improve health and the environment.  Member states may fix more stringent limits than laid down by the directive.

Various Air Pollution Controls.

There exist various detailed European Union directives aimed at limiting air pollution and protecting the environment.  More recently there has been a focus on emissions that have an adverse effect on climate change.

Certain directives relate to standards for particular products with a view to limiting air pollution and emissions.  Other obligations are overall obligations addressed to member states to limit particular harmful emissions.

There is an EU directive for controlling leakages from air-conditioning systems which contain greenhouse gases with a global warming potential more than a certain amount. Systems are prohibited until the rate of leakage does not exceed the maximum permissible amount..  There is a total ban on air conditioning systems containing fluorinated greenhouse gases with global warming potential for all vehicle, new vehicles from 1st January 2011.

EU legislation provides standards in respect of emissions from older vehicles.  The regulations apply to the initial approvals of vehicle types as well as replacement parts.  There are rules on

  • conformity of vehicles and engines
  • the durability of pollution control devices
  • measurement of fuel consumption
  • CO2 emission

In certain categories of vehicles, there must be an on-board diagnostic systems

There are consumer information requirements in relation to the emissions and fuel economy from passenger vehicles.  The fuel economy consumption and CO2 permissions must be attached to the windscreen of cars at the point of sales.  It must provide estimates of full fuel consumption and CO2 emission.  Information must also be shown in promotional material, car showroom and in the car guide.

Fuel economy guides must be produced nationally including details of the 10 most efficient car versions in terms of CO2 emissions.  The guide must be compact, portable and free of charge.  It must be available at the point-of-sale of the dealer from a designated body within the state. Fuel consumption data must be furnished at the point-of-sale

Industrial Plants Emission

A 2010 directive updates existing directives on industrial emission.  It covers industrial activities with a major pollutant potential as defined.  This applies to a range of industries including energy, production and processing of metals, mineral industry, chemical industry, waste management, rearing of animals etc.

There are special provisions regarding

  • large combustion plants more than 50 MW;
  • waste incineration or co-incineration plants;
  • certain installations and activities involving, using organic solvents, installations producing titanium by oxide.

There are exceptions for research activities, development activities and testing of new products.

Any industrial installation, carrying out the listed activities must meet basic certain obligations, including

  • preventative measures in respect of pollution;
  • use of best available techniques;
  • no significant pollution to be caused;
  • waste is reduced, recycled or disposed of in a manner which creates least pollution;
  • energy efficiency is maximised.
  • accidents are prevented and their impact limited;
  • sites are remediated when activities come to an end.

Industrial installations must use the best available techniques to achieve a high level of protection of the environment as a whole. They are to be developed on a scale which allows implementation in the relevant industrial sector under economically and technically viable conditions.

The EU is to adopt BAT conclusions containing the emission levels associated with the best available techniques.  These conclusions are to be a reference point for the drawing up of permit conditions.

Permit Conditions

The permit conditions must provide necessary measures to ensure compliance with the operator’s basic obligation and environmental quality standards.  They must at least comprise:

  • emission limits values for polluting substances;
  • rules guaranteeing the protection of soil, water and air;
  • waste monitoring and management measures;
  • requirements regarding emission measurement, methodology, frequency and evaluation procedure;
  • an obligation to inform the competent authority of the results of monitoring at least annually;
  • requirement regarding maintenance and surveillance of soil and groundwater;
  • measures dealing with exceptional circumstances such as malfunctions, leaks etc.
  • provisions on the minimisation of long distance or trans-boundary pollution;
  • conditions for assessing compliance with emission limit values.

Special provisions apply to combustion plants, waste incineration and co-incineration plants, and installations involving organic solvents and using titanium or and installations producing titanium dioxide.  The emission limit values for large combustion plants are provided in the annex to the Directive.  A degree of flexibility is introduced for existing installations.

States must set up systems of environmental inspections for the installations concerned.  They must be covered by an environmental inspection plan.  It must be renewed regularly and updated.

Based on inspection plans, the competent authority must regularly draw up programmes for routine environmental inspections, including the frequency of site visits for different types of installations.  The period between two site visits shall be based on a systematic appraisal of the environmental risks of the installations concerned.  It shall not exceed one year for installations posing the highest risks and three years for installations posing lower risks.

Large Combustion Plants

There are emission limits for pollutants from large combustion plants.  These apply to plants with a rated thermal input greater than 50 megawatts.  They apply irrespective of the type of fuel used whether solid, liquid or gas. The purpose of the regulation is to limit sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and dust emitted.

There are differing standards depending on when the plants were first authorised. The emissions are to be progressively reduced.  Existing plant must achieve certain reductions. Member states must send the commission their national emission reduction plan for existing plants.  Existing plants may be exempted from compliance with the emission levels and from inclusion in the national emission reduction plan on conditions that their operations are kept to a certain limit.

Waste gases from combustion plants must be discharged via stacks high enough to safeguard against human health and the environment.

Long Range Air Pollution

The EU states are party to a convention on long-range transboundary air pollution.  This is pollution introduced by man-made substances or energy into the air which have a deleterious effect on human health, the environment, property in another country and for which the contribution of individual emission sources cannot be distinguished.

States must develop and implement policies and strategies in the area of air quality management.  States agree to meet regularly to assess progress under the convention.

States may engage in research and development efforts to reduce the emissions of major air pollutants. They must monitor and measure the emissions rates and concentration of the pollutants.  States must exchange information particularly regarding the emissions of major air pollutants and their effects and aspects likely to cause significant changes in long-range transboundary air pollution.

States focused initially on monitoring sulphur dioxide and related substances and then other major air pollutants.

States are to cooperate in

  • monitoring the composition of media susceptible to contamination.
  • the provision of meteorological and physicochemical data relating to processes during transmission,
  • the use of comparable and standardised monitoring and modelling methods,
  • regular exchange of data.

The convention signed in 1979 is in the framework of the United Nation.

There is an EU directive on pollutant gases from wheeled agriculture and forestry tractors.  This must be incorporated into the EU type-approval system.  There are requirements in respect of emissions and some engines.  The test requirements apply to ensure the required standards are met.


There are noise emissions applicable to construction plant and equipment.  The harmonised standards in respect of the equipment provide for harmonisation of noise emission standards, conformity assessment procedures, noise level marking and gathering of data.  Member states must verify that equipment complies with the standard.  Certain limited types of equipment qualify for exceptions.

Manufacturers must draw up a declaration of conformity certifying the equipment conforms with the requisite standards and fix a marking to each equipment indicating the relevant level.  Equipment which does not comply with the requirements must be withdrawn from the market.  National bodies must enforce and monitor the legislation.

Member states may take measures to regulate the use of equipment in certain sensitive areas by restricted working hours. There are deadlines for the progressive reduction of noise levels.

Fuels Emissions

The standards for petrol and diesel fuels require a substantial reduction in pollutant emissions from those formerly applying.  Limited derogations are available only.  The sulphur content must be minimised.

Certain suppliers of fuels are designated by states to monitor and report greenhouse gas emissions per energy units from fuel and energy supplied.  They must report annually to the authorities in the member states the greenhouse gas intensity of the fuel and energy supplied states within the state.  Suppliers are required to gradually reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 per cent by 31st, December 2020.

Greenhouse gas emission savings from the use of biofuels must reach 35 per cent.  From 2017, the saving must reach 50 to 60 per cent.

There are harmonised technical specifications designed to reduce emissions from volatile organic compounds due to petrol evaporation. It covers stages from fuel storage, distribution storage installations, loading and unloading containers at terminals, mobile containers and equipment for loading storage installations.

There are requirements in relation to the recovery of harmful petrol vapours displaced from a fuel tank for a vehicle during refuelling at a service station.  Requirements apply to recover most of the petrol vapours displaced.  There are requirements to prevent or reduce the effects of emissions from volatile organic compounds on the environment and human health.  There are emission limits for compounds.  There are emission limits for such compounds and condition on installations which use that organic solvent.

New installations must comply with the requirements of the directive.  Existing installations must be registered or authorised if they have not been authorised under the integrated pollution control directive.  Where there is a substantial change in the installation, it must comply with the requirements applicable to EU installations.

The emissions limit may be complied with by installation of equipment to reduce the emission or by introducing a reduction scheme to arrive at an equipment emission level, in particular by replacing conventional products which are high solvent with low solvent or solvent-free products.  Solvents with a serious effect on human health because of their volatile organic compound content must be replaced by a less harmful substance.

States may define and implement national plans for reducing the emissions from the activities and installations covered by the legislation.  There must be a reduction in emissions at least by the same amounts that as would have been achieved under the directive.

A national plan must include details of the measures to be taken

  • Binding reduction targets
  • Description of instruments to which requirements can be achieved.

States must ensure that the public has access to the information concerning applications for authorisations, decisions, rules applicable to installations and results of the emission monitoring.

CO2 Emissions

The emission performance standards for new passenger vehicles are part of the EU’s approach to reducing CO2 emissions from lighter vehicles.  There are separate regulations regarding heavier vehicles.

There are limits for CO2 emissions from a new passenger car.  By 2020, this level is to be reduced considerably.

The type approval regulations make the requisite requirements.  Manufacturers must meet their CO2 emission targets.  Credits are provided to encourage investment in new technology.  In counting the overall reduction, cars with certain low omissions are counted as multiple times in terms of the overall target.

Manufacturers may form pools to exchange data regarding CO2 emissions and the total number of cars registered

Member states must collect data in relation to cars registered in their territory.  They must furnish certain data to the commission.  The commission keeps the central available register of data and for each manufacturer calculates

  • Average CO2 emissions in the previous year
  • Target from the previous year,
  • any discrepancies with the target.

From 2012, the manufacturers must pay an additional premium if they exceed the emission targets.

There are derogations for manufacturers producing less than 10,000 new passenger cars for certain other groups.

There is an EU-wide directive on vehicle tax, toll and user charges imposed on vehicles for the carriage of goods by road having a maximum weight of not less than 12 tons.  Vehicle tax rates must not be lower than set out in the directive.  There is a proposal to align car taxes for a number of objectives including in particular environmental sustainability in terms of emissions.


Emissions from aircraft and the aviation sector contribute to 2 per cent of gas emissions.  The European Union provided for a clean sky joint program.  Its aims are to

  • accelerate the development of clean air transport technologies,
  • guarantee effective coordination of aeronautics research.

Its aim is to reduce CO2 emissions by 50 per cent and O2 emissions by 80 per cent and noise pollution by 50 per cent by 2020.


EU states are obliged to introduce measures from 2005 to ensure that biofuels i.e., those from biodegradable waste and reside account for a minimum proportion of fuel sold.  The purpose is to reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide, monoxide, nitrous oxides and volatile organic compounds from the emissions of conventional vehicles.

There are a number of different types of biofuels including biodiesel, bioethanol, biogas, bio-oil.

Member states were to ensure a minimum share of the market of 5.75 per cent by the end of 2010.  States are obliged to report to the commission and parliament in respect of the achievement of objectives.

Machinery Gaseous Pollutants

There is an EU directive in relation to gaseous pollutants of mobile machinery.  It approximates and harmonises the laws of states in relation to emission standards type-approval procedure.

Non-road mobile machinery means any mobile machinery, transportable industrial equipment or vehicle with or without bodywork that is not intended to be used to carry goods or passengers on the road, which has an internal combustion engine as specified in the directive.

The relevant type approval procedures must confirm with the requisite standard set out in the directive.  An approval certificate must be issued for each engine type.  Member states must circulate other states with the type approvals issued by them.

Manufacturers must affix marks to each unit setting out

  • name,  trade name and name of the engine manufacturer.
  • engine type and family together with individual engine identification number.
  • type approval number.

Member states must guarantee that conformity of production is checked effectively.  Member states must take action needed to ensure that engines conform to the rules.

Persistent Organic Pollutants

The EU is party to a convention on the production, use, and release of persistent organic pollutants (POPs).  POPs are substances which produce certain toxic properties and resist degradation making them particularly harmful to health and the environment.  They may accumulate in living organisms. They may be transported by air, water, and migrating species.

The convention covers 12 priority POPs produced either intentionally or unintentionally.  They include DDT, PCBs, and dioxins. The objective is to either prohibit or minimise production and release.

Imports and exports of banned POPs are prohibited.  Chemicals classified as POPs may be imported under certain conditions:

  • for environmentally sound disposal;
  • if an exemption has been granted authorising production and use;

Exports are authorised

  • for environmentally sound disposal of POPs;
  • to a party granted an exemption from the convention;
  • to states which have not signed the convention.

In the latter case, the importing state must provide annual certification to the exporting parties specifying the intended use of the chemical and including a commitment to protect health and environment by minimising release and the taking of management measures.

Exemptions from the provisions are allowed.  They are specific to each type of POP and apply case by case.  Exemptions must be entered in a register open to the public and valid for 5 years.  They may be extended under certain circumstances subject to certain procedures.

Parties to the convention must develop a plan to fulfil their obligations.  Each party must designate a national focal point.

The convention allows for the addition of new substances which are designated POPs.  The convention was conducted by 150 governments including the EU states.

Each state must contribute financial resources to the implementation of the convention through measures and activities at national and regional level.

Members of the public and the chemical industry must be kept informed and made aware of the risks posed by POPs.  Measures such as training are envisaged.

The convention has a mechanism for identifying noncompliance and procedures for dealing with it.  There are provisions for the settlement of disputes between states by arbitration or by reference to the International Court of Justice.

Efficient Road Vehicles

There are EU rules on energy-efficient road vehicles.  States must ensure that their contractors and operators under a public service contract make ab operational lifetime energy and environmental impact when purchasing road transport vehicles.  Energy and environmental impacts include energy consumption emissions of CO2 and certain other gases.

States and contracting entities can include technical specifications for energy and environmental performance in the documentation when the vehicle is purchased or to can include energy and environmental impacts in the purchasing decision.

The methodology for calculation monetises the cost of energy consumption and emissions during the vehicles’ life.  There are methods of calculating lifetime cost of energy consumption.

Emission Standards for Vehicles

A 2011 Regulation states emission performance standards for new light commercial vehicles.   The average emissions are reduced below certain thresholds, gradually from 2014 to 2020.

From 2014, light commercial vehicle manufacturers must ensure that the average specification emissions do not exceed emission targets in the Directive.  The targets apply gradually over the period 2014 to 2017.

Manufacturers of light commercial vehicles may form approval and act jointly in order to meet emission targets.

States must collect data for each light commercial vehicle registered.  The Commission will collect this data in a central register and make it available.  Based on it, the Commission will publish information for each manufacturer.

Manufacturers advance for the production of vehicles with low emission rates obtain super credits being counted as either up to 3.5 vehicles depending on criteria for the purpose of the overall obligation.

If vehicles exceed the emissions targets, manufacturers must pay a premium based on excess emission.  The average emissions of manufacture’s car fleet exceed the threshold for one year, a premium on the excess emissions recorded or to breach ban is payable.  The amount of the premium is €5 per first gram per kilometre exceeded, increasing up to €95 per additional kilometre exceeded.  In 2019, the first gram per kilometre exceeded cost €95, being the same premium as for private motor vehicles.

Certain independent manufacturers may obtain derogations with respect to a specific emissions target if they produce less than 22,000 new light commercial vehicles in the EU.  Manufacturers producing less than 1000 are automatically excluded from the scope of the specific emissions target.

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