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Pollutants

Pollutants

Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) are agents that have relatively short lifetime in the atmosphere - a few days to a few decades - and a warming influence on climate. The main short-lived climate pollutants are black carbon, methane and tropospheric ozone, which are the most important contributors to the global greenhouse effect after CO2. They are also dangerous air pollutants, with various detrimental impacts on human health, agriculture and ecosystems. Other SLCPs include some hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). While HFCs are currently present in small quantities in the atmosphere, their contribution to climate forcing is projected to grow to as much as 19% of global CO2 emissions by 2050.

Smokestacks © iStock

The EU has legislation in place to reduce emissions of SLCPs, for example through waste legislation to reduce methane emissions and regulations to reduce F-gas emissions. Methane emissions are also covered by the Effort Sharing Decision for sectors outside the ETS. Black carbon emissions are controlled by EU air pollution control legislation.

EU domestic achievements

F-gas regulation

The European Union has taken regulatory action to control climate warming fluorinated gases as part of its policy to combat climate change. A first F-gas Regulation was adopted in 2006, together with legislation introducing a requirement for refrigerants for mobile air conditioning with low-global warming potential, and succeeded in stabilising EU F-gas emissions at 2010 levels. A new Regulation, which replaces the first and applies from 1 January 2015, strengthens the existing measures and introduces a number of far-reaching changes. By 2030, it will cut the EU’s F-gas emissions by two-thirds compared with 2014 levels. This represents a fair and cost-efficient contribution by the F-gas sector to the EU's objective of cutting its overall greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% of 1990 levels by 2050.

New clean air policy package

In 2013, the European Commission presented a comprehensive, revised and strengthened air quality policy strategy that will improve compliance with existing air quality legislation. The proposal will create health benefits of €45 to 150 billion/year in 2025, has no impact on GDP and could create around 100 000 jobs. The Commission proposed setting a cap on methane emissions at Member State level as part of a revision of the National Emissions Ceilings Directive. This would reduce methane emissions by more than 25% in 2025 (compared to 2005) without additional costs.

The EU Landfill of Waste Directive

Methane emissions from landfills in the EU fell by 35% (some 56 million tons CO2-equivalent) between 1990 and 2010 thanks to the Landfill of Waste Directive.

New legislation to review recycling and other waste-related targets

In July 2014, the European Commission proposed new legislation to review recycling and other waste-related targets in the EU Waste Framework, Landfill, and Packaging and Waste Directives. This proposal is expected to help turn Europe into a circular economy, boost recycling, and secure access to raw materials and create jobs and economic growth. The proposal is expected to reduce GHG emissions (i.e. methane) by more than 400 million tons CO2-equivalent between 2014 and 2030.

EU international action on SLCPs

Through its domestic action to phase-down the supply of HFCs, the EU has become a global leader in mitigating the effects of these climate warming gases.  The EU supports the principle of a global phase-down of the production and consumption of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol and is reaching out to its global partners to work together to achieve this.

The European Commission is a partner of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and especially active in the Promoting HFC Alternative Technology and Standards initiative. The Commission, together with the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy, leads the HFC Policy and Refrigerant Management Work Stream under this initiative which focuses on:

  • Sharing good practices
  • International cooperation on implementation issues
  • Supporting international action - promoting a global phase down through the Montreal Protocol