Air pollution travels over long distances and over national boundaries having a negative impact on human health. In order to limit air pollution which is also responsible for acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone pollution, the EU has policies in place limiting individual sources but also national totals of atmospheric emissions of the key pollutants. Together with the Ambient Air Quality Directives the National Emission Ceilings Directives and the source legislation underpinning them provide the legal framework for the EU's air policy.
In 2011-2013 the Commission conducted a review of the EU air policy which resulted in the adoption of the Clean Air Policy Package. As part of the package, the Commission proposed a Clean Air Programme for Europe, updating the 2005 Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution in order to set new objectives for EU air policy for 2020 and 2030.
The main legislative instrument to achieve the 2030 objectives of the Clean Air Programme is Directive 2016/2284/EU on the reduction of national emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants which entered into force on 31 December 2016. This Directive sets national reduction commitments for the five pollutants (sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, ammonia and fine particulate matter) responsible for acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone pollution which leads to significant negative impacts on human health and the environment. More information is available here.
The new Directive repeals and replaces Directive 2001/81/EC, the National Emission Ceilings Directive (NEC Directive) from the date of its transposition (30 June 2018) ensuring that the emission ceilings for 2010 set in that Directive shall apply until 2020. Directive 2016/2284 also transposes the reduction commitments for 2020 taken by the EU and its Member States under the revised Gothenburg Protocol (see below) and sets more ambitious reduction commitments for 2030 so as to cut the health impacts of air pollution by half compared with 2005.
Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution
In the international context, the EU Member States engaged together with Central and Eastern European countries, the United States and Canada to control international air pollution under the Gothernburg Protocol to the Convention on Long-Range Trnasboundary Air Pollution. The original protocol was agreed in November 1999 and formed the basis for the original NEC Directive 2001/81/EC. The protocol was revised in 2012 and the reduction commitments established for 2020 for the EU and its Member States have been transposed into EU law by the new NEC Directive. The Clean Air Policy Package included a proposal for Council ratification of the amended protocol which should proceed for adoption now that the revised NEC Directive is agreed.
The EU continues to work closely with the Convention to encourage ratification and implementation of the revised Protocol by the broadest range of parties, and to pursue further work on key areas such as Black Carbon and intercontinental transport of air pollution. In order to obtain a better understanding of the role of intercontinental transport of air pollution the convention has established a Task Force on Hemispheric Transport of Air Pollution (HTAP), jointly led by the US and the EU, which has developed detailed findings for ozone, particulate matter, mercury and persistent organic polutants.