EU national air emissions plans "insufficient"

Commission warns that cuts in line with UN/ECE protocol bids will miss EU quality targets

Parts of Europe will fail to meet ground-level ozone and acidification reduction targets by as much as 50% if EU countries do not commit themselves to stricter limits on emissions of four key pollutants, an unpublished European Commission analysis shows.

The analysis was presented to national diplomats during talks on the EU's proposed national emission ceilings directive, which aims at huge reductions in tropospheric ozone formation, acidification and eutrophication. The proposals envisage swingeing cuts in emissions of ammonia, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and volatile organic compounds by 2010 (ENDS Daily 9 June).

A ministerial debate on the dossier last month revealed a north-south split in attitudes to the plan (ENDS Daily 12 October). Greece and Spain said they would not make bigger cuts than they had pledged under a UN/ECE protocol with similar aims (ENDS Daily 2 September). Danish minister Svend Auken, meanwhile, told his counterparts this level of commitment was "scandalously" low.

For the first time, the Commission has now estimated what effects emissions cuts proposed under the UN protocol would have and has compared them to the targets it has proposed for EU countries. In the case of ground-level ozone formation, parts of Spain would achieve only 60% of the reduction target, while the Benelux countries and southern parts of the UK would achieve 70-90%.

A parallel objective to reduce the number of days on which World Health Organisation threshold ozone concentrations are exceeded every year would also be frustrated. The proposed ozone directive aims to reduce exceedances from a current level of 60 days to 20 days by 2010 (ENDS Daily 13 October). Meeting the UN/ECE targets alone, however, would mean exceedances on up to 25 days over much of Europe, with peaks of up to 32 days in Portugal, western France, northern Italy and southern Greece. A Commission official said the analysis "underlined the need for these countries to change their positions."

On acidification, the analysis predicts that the UN/ECE cuts will achieve 50% of the target in Germany and 80-90% in the UK and Scandinavia. In other countries the reductions are enough to meet the directive's acidification targets.

Though talks are continuing over the directive in the Council of Ministers, diplomats from both northern and southern EU countries told ENDS Daily that hopes of a common position being reached by December were unrealistic. "It is a very politically and technically sensitive dossier," said one, "and there is still a long way to go."

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111.

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