Europe’s dirty dozen

The steam plumes of Frimmersdorf, Neurath and Niederaußem in Germany , all to be found among the top eight CO2 emitters. Photo: Arne Hückelheim/ BY-SA

The most polluting point sources in Europe increased their carbon, sulphur and nitrogen oxides emissions in 2011.

The latest figures for emissions from industrial installations have been published recently by the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR).

The top twelve polluters of carbon dioxide (CO2) are, apart from one metal-processing facility in France, all thermal power plants. There are only small changes in rank and order compared to the 2010 ranking (see AN 2/2012). Germany still dominates the top twelve, with seven of the top carbon polluters. The emissions of the top twelve point-emission sources amount to 227.3 million tons in 2011, an increase by 4.2 per cent compared to the previous year.

Bełchatów in Poland remains in top place for both its CO2 and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions. While the NOx emissions of the top twelve dropped nearly one-fifth in 2010, they increased by 2 per cent in 2011, amounting to 268.4 kilotons.

Only one western European country is represented among the top twelve sulphur dioxide (SO2) emitters, the UK in the eleventh spot –  the other major polluters are located in eastern Europe. Emissions of SO2 from the dirty dozen increased by 10 per cent compared to 2010. The first-placed plant is still Maritsa 2 in Bulgaria, which emitted almost twice as much as in 2010. The increase in the overall emissions of SO2 from plants covered by the E-PRTR was 1.1 per cent for all reporting countries.

Several developments contributed to the increase in point-source air pollutants in 2011, including recovery from the economic crisis, which hit Europe in 2008/2009; many facilities are now operating at full capacity again. Another reason is the combination of high gas prices and cheap coal imports from the US, which has caused a shift in fuel mix in some parts of Europe.

The E-PRTR is a service managed by the European Commission and the European Environment Agency (EEA). The online register contains information on emissions of pollutants released into the atmosphere, hydrosphere and into the soil by industrial facilities throughout Europe (32 countries: EU27, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Serbia) and includes annual data for 91 substances released from nearly 30,000 facilities. The first data set is from 2007 and it has now been updated for the fifth time.

Moritz Mez

The European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register can be found at:

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