Even following the passing of the 2010 deadline for compliance, 10 European Union countries have remained in breach of the individual air-pollutant emission limits established by the National Emission Ceilings Directive (2001/81/EC). That finding is based on preliminary data for 2014, and the final data for 2010 through 2013, compiled in the EEA’s new briefing “NEC Directive Reporting Status 2015.”
By the terms of the National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD), all European Union member states are required to meet individual air-pollutant emission limits (ceilings) for 4 common pollutants: nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), sulphur dioxide (SO2), and ammonia (NH3).
Of these, the limits established for NOx, NMVOCs, and NH3 have been consistently breached by a substantial number of EU Member States. The primary reasons for these breaches of proscribed limits appear to have been the transport and shipping sector (NOx) and agriculture (NH3). Excessively high NOx emissions, and associated institutional corruption, were of course at the heart of the recent Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal. It bears reminding here that it was American institutions that brought this scandal to the fore — EU authorities had no hand in that. NOx emissions are of course strongly associated with increased cardiovascular and respiratory disease rates, amongst other things.
Here’s an overview of the key findings:
- In 2014, 10 Member States reported emission data under the NECD that were above the ceiling for at least one pollutant.
- Germany was the only Member State that exceeded three out of its four emission ceilings in 2014 (NOx, NMVOCs, and NH3).
- Since 2010, 10 Member States have persistently exceeded their respective emission ceilings for NOx (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland and Luxembourg), NMVOCs (Denmark, Germany, Ireland and Luxembourg), and NH3 (Austria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain).
- The SO2 ceilings emissions were not exceeded by any Member State during the period 2010–2014.
- The EU-28 as a whole did not exceed its aggregated emission ceilings for any of the four air pollutants in 2014.
So… What are the implications of these findings?
I’m going to out myself here as a Brexit supporter … one of the main arguments that I’ve heard from “Remain” proponents is that EU membership forces the UK government (and many other member countries) to be more “liberal” than they would otherwise and to adhere to pollution regulations, etc, that they otherwise wouldn’t.
The findings discussed above (and others) make it clear that this isn’t generally the case — much of the supposed improvement is simply a matter of standards and testing being set up from the get-go to be gamed (diesel vehicle testing standards and outsized German influence in the EU are related in what way?). That is, when they aren’t outright ignored. Some improvements are also the result of outsourcing the EU’s pollution (and much of its manufacturing) to poorer regions. Nearly stagnant growth has factored in as well.
In support of the presumption that the EU is a force for good with regard to pollution, many often quote one or another ridiculous comment made by one fringe politician or another, seemingly as a threat about what will happen if Brexit occurs… apparently ignoring the fact that simply voting for Brexit won’t fundamentally change the political landscape of the UK. None of those fringe politicians are going to all of a sudden gain mass support for their policies. And, for that matter, public indifference to the nuances of policy and governing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon either… politics is largely spectacle and sport at this point.
To be clearer here, I’m not holding Brexit up as some sort of absolute good. Clearly, there are downsides. At this point, there are no truly good choices remaining for the UK (to my eyes). But, as the EU is on a path of disintegration anyways, and is arguably an ineffective and/or malign influence (for the lower classes in particular), devolving powers to the relatively local national level seems to be in the best interest of most of those in the UK. Why get dragged down with the EU?
Regardless of what the public debate on the matter claims to be, it seems that the situation is more closely related to whether or not the UK sticks with the stagnant or contracting EU, or tries to cozy up further to China. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if there has already been a fair amount of private negotiation (that probably will remain private) with the Chinese government on this matter.
Considering how much interest China has expressed in Arctic fossil fuels and minerals in recent years (based on public statements, and on its actions with regard to Canada and Greenland), and considering the location of the UK, presumably, China wouldn’t mind further expanding its influence there — further weakening the US’s sphere of influence in the Northern Atlantic, and thereby in the Arctic.