Harmonised legislation in Europe
The progress in the fight against air pollution in Europe, apart from being subject to national initiatives, is being delivered within two international bodies:
• the Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution (Convention, CLRTAP) in the framework of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (1979)
• the European Union: the principle that a common market implies that environmental legislation should be harmonised in Europe was agreed and included in the Single European Act which came into force in 1987. In the Treaty of Maastricht (1992) it was stipulated that environmental policy should be part of all sorts of policy in order to achieve higher environmental quality.
Under the Convention the 50 participating countries and the EU agree on Protocols with specified objectives e.g. for emission reduction which become binding for each country after national ratification. Progress is checked through a reporting mechanism; there is no sanction on non-compliance, apart from ‘naming and shaming’.
In the European Union the 27 Member States have transferred the legislative authority on environmental topics to the European Union. The European Commission proposes draft Directives for co-decision by the Council (of national ministers) and the European Parliament. After the decision EU Member States have the obligation to integrate the Directives in their national legislative systems. The Commission has the authority for sanctioning Member States in case of non-compliance.
The specific obligations for European countries due to these harmonisation mechanisms are being outlined separately for the European Union and the Convention.
The CRLTAP and the EU cannot be compared to each other in their approach to Climate Change.
The Convention was founded when it became clear that the serious effects of acidification across Europe require an international response at the continental scale; it has since extended its work field to nearly all conventional types of air pollution. Climate change, however, has not been touched so far in any of its Protocols.
Recently, it has been recognised that an integrated approach of air pollution and climate change may generate co-benefits. This may have effect in the scope of existing Protocols during their current or future revision..
The wider mission of the European Union to protect the environment has put climate change on the European policy agenda at an early stage where it now has a prominent position. The European policy on Climate Change is outlined separately.