EC pushes ahead with plans for anti-ozone directives

The European Commission has presented proposals for ozone reduction to member states' environment ministers, with many southern European ministers protesting that emission targets are too tough.

The EC Environment Commissioner, Margot Wallström, is proposing a directive that will set national emission ceilings for four pollutants that contribute to ground-level ozone as well as a ‘daughter’ directive setting a limit on ozone in ambient air.

The proposed national emission ceilings for sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOC) and ammonia (NH3) would, according to the EC, result in considerable human and vegetation health benefits by 2010. The EC forecasts that its proposed national emissions ceilings would result in the following drops in emission levels based on 1990 figures:

  • 78% reduction in sulphur
  • 55% reduction in nitrogen oxide
  • 60% reduction in hydrocarbons
  • 21% reduction in ammonia

An open debate on the two proposed directives at the 12 October Council of Ministers meeting in Luxembourg made it clear how hard the Commission will have to work if it wants the EU to adopt such tough targets. Ministers from many southern European member states indicated their desire to focus on the recently agreed UN national emissions ceilings protocol, which has set higher emissions levels (see related story).

“It is not the concept that is under question but the setting of the emission ceilings,” an EC spokesperson told edie.
The spokesperson also commented that the prospect of the EC’s national emission ceilings being watered down risks raising the question, once again, of whether there is a need to have an EU-wide emission limit on large combustion plants.

The related question of an EU long-term target on ground-level ozone raised concerns from environment ministers from France, Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal. They indicated their belief that the objective to reduce ozone to less than 120µg/m3 should not yet be considered.

Data regarding ground-level ozone within the EU during 1998 and the summer of 1999 was published by the EC to coincide with the Council meeting. The data showed that “even the information threshold of 180µg/m3 was exceeded in most countries” last summer. The Commission concludes that “there is no evidence to indicate an overall reduction in ozone exposure to the EU population”.

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