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An updated Industrial Emissions Directive to prevent and control pollution

The European Commission has presented proposals to update and modernise the Industrial Emissions Directive, key legislation to help prevent and control pollution. Updated rules aim to spur innovation, reward frontrunners and help level the playing field in the EU market.

The revision builds on the overall approach of the existing Industrial Emissions Directive, which currently covers some 50,000 large industrial installations and intensive livestock farms in Europe. These installations need to comply with emissions conditions by applying activity-specific Best Available Techniques. The new rules will cover more relevant sources of emissions, make permitting more effective, reduce administrative costs, increase transparency and give more support to breakthrough technologies and other innovative approaches.  

“By 2050, economic activity in the European Union should no longer pollute our air, water and the wider environment,” said Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans. “Today’s proposals will enable important reductions of harmful emissions coming from industrial installations and Europe’s largest livestock farms. By modernising Europe’s industrial emissions framework now there is certainty about future rules to guide long-term investments, increase Europe’s energy and resource independence, and encourage innovation.”  

“These new rules will enable large industrial plants and intensive livestock farming to play their part in achieving the objective of the European Green Deal and its zero-pollution ambition,” added Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius. “Solely from action on livestock farms, benefits to human health would amount to at least 5.5 billion euros per year. The changes will create more jobs, as the EU’s eco-innovation sector has shown success in the past. Measures that proactively tackle the pollution, climate and biodiversity crises can make our economy more efficient and more resilient.”  

Thanks to the Industrial Emissions Directive, in the last 15 years emissions to air for many pollutants have been reduced by between 40 per cent and 75 per cent from Europe’s largest industrial plant and intensive livestock farms. Heavy metals emissions to water have also declined by up to 50 per cent during this period. Despite successes in curbing emissions, the over 50,000 industrial installations covered still account for around 40 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, over 50 per cent of total emissions to air of sulphur oxides, heavy metals and other harmful substances and around 30 per cent of nitrogen oxides and fine particulate matter air emissions, warranting further action. 

The existing framework will be enhanced with new measures to boost its overall effectiveness. The main changes include, among others more effective permits for installations. Instead of settling for the least demanding limits of the best available techniques, as some 80 per cent of installations do currently, permitting will have to assess the feasibility of reaching the best performance. It also includes more help for EU innovation frontrunners. As an alternative to permits based on well-established best techniques, frontrunners will be able to test emerging techniques, benefitting from more flexible permits. An Innovation Centre for Industrial Transformation and Emissions (INCITE) will help the industry with identifying pollution control solutions. Also, new measures will be included to support the industry’s circular economy investments.  

The new rules will also cover more installations, notably more large-scale intensive livestock farms, the extraction of industrial minerals and metals and large-scale production of batteries.

Finally, the new rules will increase transparency and public participation in the permitting process.

Photo: Mathieu Golinvaux/European Union 2022.

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