Pan-European air emissions ceilings agreed

UN/ECE protocol hits three types of pollution by limiting four gases, but by less than draft EU directive

Diplomats from across Europe reached draft agreement today on binding limits for each country's emissions of four key air pollutants. Some 32 European states are expected to sign up to the so-called multi-pollutant protocol which aims to reduce the problems of acidification, eutrophication and ozone pollution.

A final draft text will be presented to delegates tomorrow, including a list of national emissions ceilings a copy of which was obtained by ENDS Daily today (see table below). Sources caution that some details of these could still be revised.

The protocol is being negotiated under the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE) convention on long-range transboundary air pollution and is expected to be formally signed in Gothenburg, Sweden, in December. The USA and Canada will also sign a modified version.

The draft protocol sets national limits for emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ammonia (NH3) for the year 2010. It is thought to be the first time that emissions of ammonia - most of which come from manure and fertilisers on farms - have been subject to international controls. Technical annexes will set guidelines for managing ammonia from farms and VOC emissions. They will also set binding standards for new large combustion plants similar to those proposed for the EU by the European Commission (ENDS Daily 9 July 1998).

The protocol has already come under fire, from both industry, which claims the computer models used to calculate the necessary emissions reductions are flawed (ENDS Daily 23 August), and environmental groups, which claim many EU countries have failed to accept reasonably ambitious targets.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) coalition of NGOs today singled out Portugal, France, Belgium and Italy as being particularly reluctant to offer emissions cuts large enough to reduce pollution to levels agreed at a meeting in June. The EEB's John Hontelez said: "This is another example where the EU leadership is fading away. It is very disappointing that the EU countries are not prepared to take the measures needed even to reach the relatively modest improvements that they themselves have agreed."

Some EU countries have only accepted emissions ceilings which are the same as the UN/ECE's so-called "reference scenario," which is predicted 2010 emissions levels based on implementation of already agreed measures only.

However, some of the same countries are faced with much tougher emissions limits under the draft EU national emissions ceilings directive proposed by the European Commission this summer (ENDS Daily 9 June). For example, under the UN/ECE protocol, Belgium's SO2 ceiling is 121,000 tonnes per year, whereas the Commission has proposed a limit of 76,000 (see tables below and in article published on 9 June).

UN/ECE multi-pollutant protocol draft 2010
national emission ceilings (,000 tonnes)
               SO2     NOX     VOC     NH3
Austria         39     107     159      66
Belgium        121     184     144      74
Denmark         55     127      85      69
Finland        116     170     130      31
France         400     860    1100     780
Germany        550    1081     995     550
Greece         546     344     261      73
Ireland         42      65      55     116
Italy          500    1000    1159     419
Luxembourg       4      11       9       7
Netherlands     50     266     191     128
Portugal       170     260     202     121
Spain          774     847     669     353
Sweden          67     168     241      58
UK             625    1181    1200     297
TOTAL EU      4059    6671    6600    3142

Selected other European countries:

Bulgaria       856     266     185      74
Croatia         70      87      90      30
Czech Republic 283     286     220     101    
Hungary        550     198     137      90
Latvia         107      84     136      44 
Lithuania      145     110      92      84    
Norway          22     156     195      23    
Poland        1397     879     800     468 
Romania        918     437     523     210  
Slovakia       110     130     140      39    
Slovenia        27      45      40      20  
Switzerland     26      79     144      63     

Follow Up:
UN/ECE, tel: +41 22 917 44.

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