07.08.2012 | permalink
According to a new report published last week by the European Environment Agency (EEA), emissions of air pollutants in the European Union have decreased over the past 20 years despite the fact that several Member States have failed to meet internationally agreed emission limits. The agricultural sector also remains one of the biggest polluters, along with industry, road transport, power plants and households. In 1999, European countries commited to reducing air pollution under the Gothenburg Protocol of the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP), which established emissions ceilings for nitrogen oxides, non-methane volatile organic compounds, ammonia and sulphur oxide - to be met by 2010. The report found that 11 countries had exceeded the agreed limits for these air pollutants. In 2010, the agricultural sector was responsible for the lion’s share of ammonia emissions (94%), with France and Germany accounting for most of these emissions in absolute terms. The good news is that ammonia (NH3) emissions decreased by 28% between 1990 and 2010, with the most significant cuts achieved by Poland, the Netherlands and Germany. The EEA report largely attributes the fall in ammonia emissions to reduced livestock numbers in Europe, and the lower use of nitrogenous fertilisers. Agriculture also accounts for 11% of coarse particulate matter emissions, which increased by 8% between 2000 and 2010 and are particularly harmful to human health.