EU met air pollution limits for four key pollutants in 2018

07 July 2020

Article: 54/2707

The European Environment Agency (EEA) has published its yearly briefing presenting progress made by the EU and its member states towards meeting the 2010 emission ceilings, that were applicable until the end of 2019, under the National Emission reduction Commitments (NEC) directive. The briefing also 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.

The briefing contained several 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 UK 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 will need to reduce fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions by more than 30% below 2018 levels to achieve the 2030 reduction commitments.