Seven European Union (EU) member states exceeded the EU National Emissions Ceiling (NEC) Directive air pollutant limits in 2011, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said last week. The European Commission is reportedly considering initiating infringement proceedings against the countries for exceeding emissions limits for nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, and ammonia.

An early analysis of the official "final" data confirmed that 12 countries exceeded their respective NOx ceilings in 2010. But, according to preliminary data, seven of these member states continued to breach these NOx ceilings in 2011, in some instances by "significant amounts," the EEA said. The seven countries are: Luxembourg, Austria, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, and Ireland. Finland breached ammonia ceilings again in 2011.

Germany was the only member state to have exceeded emission ceilings for three of the four pollutants covered under the directive both in 2010 and 2011, the EEA said.

"Although the new data shows some clear improvement between 2010 and 2011, Europe still needs to work hard to reduce air pollution," EEA Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade said in a statement. "Emissions from transport are still a major problem, particularly in some cities."

The European commission is this fall expected to publish a proposal for a revised NEC Directive, potentially calling for stricter emission ceilings for 2020 and beyond. In the absence of new legislation, however, the NEC Directive remains in force and requires member states to keep emissions below national ceilings.

Sources: POWERnews, EEA