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 2013, the European Commission proposed a new Clean Air Program for Europe that outlines a strategy to meet existing targets in the short-term, and fixes new air quality objectives for the period up to 2030.
The package includes: a revised National Emission Ceilings Directive with stricter national emission ceilings for the six main pollutants (sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, ammonia, particulate matter (fine dust) and methane), and a new Directive proposal, which entered into force in December 2016, to reduce pollution from medium-sized combustion installations, such as energy plants for street blocks or large buildings, and small industry installations.
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.