Ongoing negotiations for new emission ceilings

Europe-wide solutions for step-wise improvements of health and the environment at the least overall cost are being investigated.

A revised Gothenburg Protocol to the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution Convention (LRTAP) should be ready before the end of 2011, according to a decision by the convention’s Executive Body (EB), which met in Geneva in December 2010.

The Gothenburg Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone was signed in 1999 and entered into force in 2005. It sets binding national emission ceilings for 2010 for four pollutants (sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and ammonia), contains emission limit values for a number of specific emission source categories such as large combustion plants and road vehicles, and requires the use of best available techniques.

Ongoing negotiations are taking place under the convention’s Working Group on Strategies and Review (WGSR) and focus on establishing new emission ceilings for 2020, updating the technical annexes that specify emission limit values etc., and including new pollutants, primarily fine particles (PM2.5).

Black carbon is to be included in the revision of the Gothenburg Protocol as a component of PM2.5, the EB agreed. Other air pollutants that contribute to near-term global climate change, such as ground-level ozone with its precursors, are to be investigated more closely.

To provide negotiators with up-to-date information on cost-effective emission abatement options up to 2020, a computer model for integrated assessment is being used.

In February 2011, a first set of cost-optimised scenarios was produced by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), and discussed by the convention’s Task Force on Integrated Assessment Modelling.

The scenarios are constructed for what is known as a gap closure approach, aiming at step-wise health and environmental improvements. This first set of scenarios investigated gap-closures of varying levels of ambition, from 25 to 75 per cent gap closure (see AN 3/10, pp. 14-15).

Recommendations from the Task Force are fed into the formal negotiation process, with the next negotiation meeting taking place in Geneva on 11-15 April. A final negotiating meeting is scheduled for mid-September.

Implementation of the existing protocol is a matter of high priority for the convention, and the EB was informed by its implementation committee that some countries are still failing to comply with the emission reduction demands of the protocols, and several countries are failing to comply with the obligation to report.

Despite repeated sharp reprimands over several years, Greece and Spain have now been in non-compliance with the 1988 NOx Protocol for 16 years, i.e. every year since 1994. Spain has also failed to comply with the 1991 VOC Protocol, and is still a long way from achieving the required 30-per-cent reduction.

Consequently, the EB expressed increasing disappointment at the continuing failure of Spain and Greece to fulfil their obligations to take effective measures to attain compliance, and strongly urged both countries to implement the measures necessary to achieve compliance as soon as possible. Cyprus was also criticised for non-compliance with the NOx Protocol.

A long-term strategy for the implementation of the Convention was adopted, providing strategic directions for the next ten years and beyond. The challenges to be addressed include: Health damage, especially from fine particles; Acidification and eutrophication of ecosystems with ensuing effects on biodiversity; Impacts to health and vegetation from ground-level ozone; and, Damage to materials and cultural monuments.

Christer Ågren

The report and other documents from the Executive Body meeting are available here.

The LRTAP Convention

The Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) dates back to 1979 and covers 51 parties in Europe and North America. The convention is extended by eight protocols that specify emission reduction commitments and identify specific abatement measures to be taken. Cooperation under the convention includes development of policies and strategies to combat the discharge of air pollutants through exchanges of information, consultation, research and monitoring.

Sources: Press releases from European Commission and EEB, 19 January 2011.


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