The EU Commission proposed new rules to update and modernise the Industrial Emissions Directive, key legislation to help prevent and control pollution. Updated rules will guide industrial investments necessary for Europe’s transformation towards a zero-pollution, competitive, climate-neutral economy by 2050 and provide long-term investment certainty.

Industrial Emissions Directive

Industrial activities, like electricity and cement production, waste management and incineration, and the intensive rearing of livestock, are responsible for emissions of harmful substances to air, water and soil. These emissions include sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, ammonium, dust and mercury and other heavy metals. 

For the last 15 years, the Industrial Emissions Directive helped the reduction of emissions to air of many pollutants by between 40% and 75% from Europe’s largest industrial plant and intensive livestock farms. Heavy metals emissions to water have also declined by up to 50% during this period.  

Still over 50,000 industrial installations and intensive livestock farms in Europe, account for around 40% of greenhouse gas emissions, over 50% of total emissions to air of sulphur oxides, heavy metals and other harmful substances and around 30% of nitrogen oxides and fine particulate matter air emissions, warranting further action. 

These installations need to comply to emissions conditions by applying activity-specific ‘Best Available Techniques’. These techniques are determined together by industry, national and Commission experts, and civil society. The new Industrial Emissions Directive proposal 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.  

Following extensive consultation with industry and stakeholders and a thorough impact assessment, the existing framework will be enhanced with new measures to boost its overall effectiveness. The main changes include: 

  • More effective permits for installations. Instead of settling for the least demanding limits of the best available techniques, as some 80% of installations do currently, permitting will have to assess the feasibility of reaching the best performance.

  • 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 industry with identifying pollution control solutions. Finally, by 2030 or 2034 operators will need to develop Transformation Plans for their sites to achieve the EU’s 2050 zero pollution ambition, circular economy and decarbonisation aims.  

  • Supporting industry’s circular economy investments. New best available techniques could include binding resource use performance levels. The existing Environmental Management System will be upgraded to reduce the use of toxic chemicals.  

  • Synergies between depollution and decarbonisation. Energy efficiency will be an integral part of permits, and systematic consideration will be given to technological and investment synergies between decarbonisation and depollution when determining best available techniques.  

Industrial Emissions Directive

The new rules will also cover more installations, notably:  

  • More large-scale intensive livestock farms. Under the new rules, the largest cattle, pig, and poultry farms would be gradually covered: about 13% of Europe’s commercial farms, together responsible for 60% of the EU’s livestock emissions of ammonia and 43% of methane. The health benefits of this extended coverage are estimated at more than €5.5 billion per year. As farms have simpler operations than industrial plants, all farms covered will benefit from a lighter permitting regime. The obligations stemming from this proposal will reflect the size of farms as well as the livestock density through tailored requirements. The Common Agricultural Policy remains a key source of support for the transition. 

  • Extraction of industrial minerals and metals and large-scale production of batteries. These activities will significantly expand in the EU to enable the green and digital transitions.  This requires that the best available techniques are employed to ensure both the most efficient production processes and the lowest possible impacts on the environment and human health. The governance mechanisms of the Directive that closely associate industry experts to the development of consensual and tailored environmental requirements, will support the sustainable growth of these activities in the Union.  

Finally, the new rules will increase transparency and public participation in the permitting process. In addition, the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register will be transformed into an EU Industrial Emissions Portal where citizens will be able to access data on permits issued anywhere in Europe and gaining insight into polluting activities in their immediate surroundings in a simple way.  

“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. Solely from action on livestock farms, benefits to human health would amount to at least €5.5 billion per year. The changes will create more jobs, as the EU’s eco-innovation sector has shown successfully in the past. Measures that proactively tackle the pollution, climate and biodiversity crises can make our economy more efficient and more resilient.”  

Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius

Source: EU Commisison

Industrial Emissions Directive