Industrial Emissions

Facts and figures

In 2012, industry accounted for 85 per cent of emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2), 40 per cent of emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOX), and 50 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in EEA-33 countries.

The damage costs associated with air pollution released by the 14,000 most polluting facilities in Europe are estimated to be at least EUR 329—1,053 billion in the five-year period 2008—2012.

  • 20+ year outlook: Industrial emissions are expected to decrease further, but harm to the environment and human health remains considerable.
  • (EEA: The European environment—state and outlook 2015)

On average, 0.40 per cent of GDP was spent on environmental protection by industry in the EU-28 in 2013.

(Eurostat: Energy, transport and environment indicators 2015)


Despite much discussion about ‘the post-industrial society’ or the need to reindustrialise Europe, large-scale industrial and related activities remain an important part of many Member States’ economy and fundamentally affect the environment in the Union. However, it is also true that the environmental impact of industrial activities in the EU overall has decreased, partly as a result of the implementation of more effective abatement technologies and other measures for preventing or reducing pollution and partly because of restructuring and a shift of polluting industries from Europe to other parts of the world. Nonetheless, industrial activities are still a major source of pollutants and the regulation of industrial emissions, broadly construed, remains a centrepiece of EU environmental policy.

The first integrated approach to industrial pollution—that is, addressing pollution to air, water, and soil in one regulatory structure—was adopted in 1996 through Directive 96/61/EC concerning integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC).1 The EC then already had a general framework requiring authorisation

i Council Directive 96/61/EC concerning integrated pollution prevention and control [1996] OJ L 257/26.

EU Environmental Law and Policy. David Langlet and Said Mahmoudi. © David Langlet and Said Mahmoudi 2016. Published 2016 by Oxford University Press.

of industrial installations causing air pollution, as well as an authorisation requirement for the discharge of certain dangerous substances into the aquatic environment^ But there was no comparable legislation aimed at preventing or minimising emissions into soil and the different approaches to controlling emissions into different media were deemed to encourage the shifting of pollution between environmental media rather than protecting the environment as a whole.[1] [2] The IPPC Directive therefore aimed to achieve integrated prevention and control of pollution arising from a significant number of listed industrial activities.

Following significant amendments, not least to adapt the Directive to the EU emission allowance trading scheme (EU ETS) set up by Directive 2003/87/EC,[3] [4] the IPPC Directive was codified in 2008 as Directive 2008/1/EC.5 However, as early as 2007 the Commission had tabled a proposal for revising and recasting the IPPC Directive and six sectoral Directives relating to the environmental impacts of industrial activities into a single legal act.[5]

This move was prompted primarily by the identification of shortcomings in the existing legislation leading to unsatisfactory implementation and difficulties in enforcement. This was problematic not only for the attainment of environmental objectives but also because of the distorting impact on competition caused by big differences in environmental standards and unnecessary administrative burdens. In addition to the merging of seven legal acts into one, the proposal included, inter alia, clarification and strengthening of the concept of best available techniques; revision of the minimum emission limit values for large combustion plants; the introduction of provisions on inspection and environmental improvements; and simplification of certain provisions on permitting, monitoring, and reporting to cut administrative burdens.[6] Based on this proposal, a new Directive 2010/75/EU on industrial emissions (integrated pollution prevention and control) (IED) was adopted in 2010.

  • [1] Council Directive 84/360/EEC on the combating of air pollution from industrial plants [1984]OJ L 188/20 and Council Directive 76/464/EEC on pollution caused by certain dangerous substancesdischarged into the aquatic environment of the Community [1976] OJ L 129/23, respectively.
  • [2] Preambular paras 4—7. 3 On the emission trading scheme see section 11.2.
  • [3] 5 Directive 2008/1/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning integrated pol
  • [4] lution prevention and control (Codified version) [2008] OJ L 24/ 8.
  • [5] Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on industrial emissions(integrated pollution prevention and control) (Recast) (21 December 2007) COM(2007) 844 final.
  • [6] Ibid, 5.
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