European Union

Air Pollution

In order to improve air quality in Europe the Commission operates within a strategic framework with a five-year time horizon. After the Clean Air for Europe (CAFE) Programme (2001-2005) the present framework has been laid down in the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution (2006-2010; TSAP).

Legislation is being developed along two tracks. The first exists of establishing limit and target values for air quality with connected regulation on monitoring, reporting and actions for the protection of human health and vegetation. Under the TSAP a new Air Quality Directive which includes all earlier legislation, is in force since June 2008. The existing and recently introduced limit and target values for the regulated components are summarised under Air Quality.

The second track is source oriented. It addresses Member States directly by establishing National Emission Ceilings (NEC) for specific compounds which should not be exceeded in a specific year. The present NEC Directive regulates the ceilings for the year 2010; its revision for the period after 2010 has beem delayed. A proposal was announced to be availabled at the end of 2012 for adoption by the EP and the Council in 2013.
In addition, legislation has been developed which addresses emissions of specific source categories, such as Industrial sources and various Mobile sources.

Along a third track, a number of instruments has been developed and laid down in Directives which address the central objectives of Sustainable Development and which may result in emissions reductions.

Climate Change

The efforts to control climate change within the range of a temperature rise of 2o C are coordinated by the United Nations. The involvement of the European Union dates back from before 1992 when the European Community (EC) became a party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It resulted in the obligation to report on emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) throughout its territory and the instalment of a monitoring instrument on existing and future policies. The EC had already then adopted a target to stabilise its GHG emissions in 2000 at the level of 1990; it also developed a program in the early nineties to limit European methane emissions. 

With the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 the EU committed itself to a reduction of 8% relative to 1990 emissions, to be reached between 2008-2012. In order to meet that target a distribution was agreed on the efforts which were required by individual Member States, taking regard of the specific situation per country. The target will be met indeed within the agreed timeframe.

With the Kyoto Protocol to expire in a few years the EU prepared itself for its succession. Energy policy is a crucial element in the climate change problem. Climate change policies have to be considered together with objectives such as security of supply of energy and competitiveness of European industry.

In early 2008 the Commission launched a proposal for co-decision in the Council and the European Parliament, Europe’s Climate Change opportunity 20-20-20 in 2020; this Energy Package was adopted at the end of that year. The resulting legislation is summarised under Climate Change policy and is the basis for negotiations in the annual UNFCCC Conferences of Parties.