EU Commission welcomes agreement to reduce air pollution

The European Commission has welcomed the EU Environment Ministers' agreement to curb air pollution from power generators and set ceilings for four major air pollutants.

The agreement reached on the proposals on large combustion plants (LCPs) and national emission ceilings (NECs) will more than halve the emissions of sulphur dioxide from existing power plants. By 2010, overall emissions of sulphur dioxide will be reduced by 77%, nitrogen oxides by 51%, volatile organic compounds by 54% and ammonia by 14%, compared to 1990 levels.

The Council accepted the environmental objectives proposed by the Commission and agreed to further reductions in emissions beyond those committed to in the UNECE Protocol signed last December in Gothenburg. These will take the Community two thirds of the way towards meeting its objective for acidification and over half way towards its health objective for ozone. A review is planned for 2004 to bridge the remaining gap.

Welcoming the Council agreement, EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström said “This is a package which proves that the EU is determined to set ambitious goals on environmental protection and deliver results. At the same time the agreement sets an important environmental benchmark for negotiations with Candidate Countries in the enlargement process.”

Commissioner Wallström welcomed the inclusion of existing plants in the LCP proposal, and was pleased that Member States could agree to NECs which go beyond those of the Gothenburg Protocol, even if they remain more modest than those envisaged by the Commission. She stressed that the result achieved will require a major effort from several Member States.

The Council agreed to include existing plants in the scope of the LCP proposal, excepting only those plants which are shut down within 20,000 operating hours of 1 January 2008. Member States equally agreed on individual emission ceilings for each Member State for the four pollutants concerned.

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