Europe’s air quality has improved remarkably in recent decades but air pollution remains one of the main causes of preventable illness and premature death in the EU and has a significant impact on the environment. The European Union (EU)’s policy on air quality aims to improve air quality from mobile sources and installations.
In 2018, the European Commission (EC) adopted a Communication “A Europe that protects: Clean air for all’ that provides actors at different levels with practical help to improve air quality in Europe.
The measures proposed by the Commission depend on three main pillars: air quality standards; national emission reduction targets; and emission standards for key sources of pollution, for example from vehicle and ship emissions to energy and industry. The EC also highlighted the need to step up cooperation with Member States by engaging with relevant authorities in new ‘Clean Air Dialogues’, and by using EU funding to support measures to improve air quality.
The Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), in force since January 2011, aims to minimise pollution from various industrial sources throughout the EU. Operators of industrial installations targeted by the directive – some 50.000 in total – have to obtain a permit from the authorities. The permit takes into account the whole environmental performance of the plant, including emissions, waste generation, raw material use and other aspects. The permit conditions under the current directives and the IED are based on the definition of the Best Available Techniques (BAT). Setting these standards – mainly defining the Emission Limit Values (ELV) for environmental permits – requires input from operators, authorities and other stakeholders. Petrochemicals Europe is an active contributor to the information exchange needed to elaborate the Best Available Techniques Reference (BREF) documents in a transparent way.
Petrochemicals Europe and Cefic to which it belongs aim always to ensure that the legislation on air quality is based on sound science.
Any definition of BAT should be based on solid data to avoid hindering the competitiveness of the EU chemical industry. The industry is willing to provide sound and reliable data.
Legislators should consider economics when they design new laws. The policies should reflect cost-efficient measures. For instance, the petrochemical industry has reduced its NOx emissions as much as it could,although the steamcrackers in the EU only account for 0.19% of the NOx emissions.