Austria Harmonizes Air Emissions with European Law

VIENNA, Austria, May 15, 2003 (ENS) - Austria's Parliament has approved rules designed to convert to national legislation the provisions of a major European Union law passed in 2001 that sets national emission ceilings on four key air pollutants. The development has served mainly to highlight the slow progress of most EU governments towards this goal.

The European Commission today confirmed that only Denmark and Sweden have so far completed the process, whereas all member states should have transposed the law, known as a directive, by last November.

The European Commission, the EU executive branch, in January handed the other 13 EU countries a first warning of potential court action.

The national emission ceilings directive sets strict 2010 targets for limiting sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and ammonia.

Many economic and industrial sectors will be affected by this drive to tackle the key environmental issues of eutrophication, acidification and ground level ozone pollution.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is formed when coal and oil containing sulfur is burned, and during metal smelting and other industrial processes. SO2 is a precursor to sulfates, which are associated with acidification of lakes and streams from acid rain, accelerated corrosion of buildings and monuments, reduced visibility, and adverse health effects.

Ammonia is an air pollutant largely produced by livestock farming, that can damage sensitive habitats.

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Traffic in Vienna (Photo by Ian Britton courtesy FreeFoto)
Ground level ozone, smog, is created by sunlight acting on nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds in the air. Some of the common sources of these gases include gasoline vapors, chemical solvents, combustion products of fuels, and consumer products.

Emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds from motor vehicles and stationary sources can be carried hundreds of miles from their origins, and result in high ozone concentrations over large regions.

In Austria the squeeze will mainly affect nitrogen oxides and emissions of volatile organic compounds since the 2010 targets for sulfur dioxide and ammonia have already been met, a first for EU countries.

The 2010 limit for nitrogen oxides is 103,000 metric tons, requiring a 48 percent cut from 2001 levels - 199,000 metric tons. Emissions of volatile organic compounds must be cut by 31 percent from the 2001 level to 159,000 tons.

Austrian sulfur dioxide and ammonia emissions were both still above the law's 2010 targets as recently as 1999. But by 2001 only 37,000 tons of sulfur dioxide were released, five percent below the 2010 target of 39,000 tons.

Emissions of ammonia reached 54,000 tons, fully 18 percent below the 2010 target of 66,000 tons.

The legal package approved last week also includes new targets for reducing ozone pollution levels from 2010. Another measure aims at improving controls on road traffic pollution, including new rights for authorities to ban offenders from driving.

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{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email: envdaily@ends.co.uk}