New EU laws on industrial pollution not fit for zero pollution ambition

Inustry - Oil Refinery, Petrochemical plant

The proposal for the review of the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) reveals significant steps forward. Yet the Commission jeopardises the progress achieved by leaving significant loopholes unresolved that have been exploited by the industry to shirk its responsibilities. Reporting on industrial activities is still falling short of entering into the “digital age”.

This press release was updated on 5 April following EEB’s reaction to the leaked version on 1 April.

The Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) is the single most important piece of legislation in the EU’s toolbox to tackle industrial pollution at its source in order to achieve a high level of protection for the health of humans and the environment. 

Despite its strong potential, this regulatory framework has been flouted by several industries with the complacent stance of some member states, either weakening emission and pollution prevention standards, known as the Best Available Technique (BAT) Reference Documents (BREFs), or just sidelining BAT uptake by lax implementation and exploiting loopholes, addressed in part by the revised proposal.  

The European Commission has also unveiled the revision of the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR), the EU policy framework setting the rules for industrial performance reporting. One of the most interesting provisions of the E-PRTR is the obligation to establish a centralised EU Industrial Emissions Portal to provide data about industrial activities. 

The new updated legislation will ensure that other thematic data (e.g. consumption and production volume) will be reported, yet it is not explicit as to whether the new database will enable a proper benchmarking of industry performance and permit ambition of the member states’ authorities. The list of pollutants has been kept unchanged.

A joint NGO preliminary assessment of the main positive and negative points of both proposals is available here.

Intensive agro-industrial livestock rearing got away with a late minute weakening, even backtracking on current protection levels for large scale pigs and poultry farms.

Christian Schaible, Policy Manager for Industrial Production at the EEB, said on the IED proposal:

“The European Commission has done a good job in terms of strengthening enforcement and sanctions. However, the proposal falls short of pushing industry into a comprehensive shift toward climate neutrality and zero pollution. It’s a huge blunder to keep in an article that prevents permit writers from establishing limits for greenhouse gas emissions for industrial polluters. This has to be fixed if the EU is serious about its Green Deal commitments”.

“The proposed regulatory regression on the currently covered livestock activities is simply not acceptable”. 

Joze Roth , Senior Policy Officer for Zero Pollution at the EEB, said the E-PRTR proposal:

“The EU needs to enter the digital age as to industrial reporting, enabling citizens to compare performance and permit conditions in a few clicks. We are not there yet. Better IT tools at EU level could strengthen progress tracking and benchmarking on environmental performance”.

Agnese Ruggiero, Policy Officer at Carbon Market Watch said:

“The Commission’s proposal for revising the Industrial Emissions Directive misses the opportunity to make it a strong tool to drive the clean industrial transformation. The Commission should have included greenhouse gas emissions in the scope of the directive to reinforce the market-based approach of the EU emissions trading scheme. It’s now up to the co-legislators to fix this.”

Bellinda Bartolucci, lawyer at ClientEarth said:

“Industrial plants and power stations can emit neurotoxins like mercury and arsenic into the air, water and soil. Other industrial pollutants can trigger respiratory issues and are associated with forms of cancer. Thousands of people live in the impact radius of industrial installations all over Europe, and to date have been powerless to push back or claim reparations for the harm they suffer if these installations break the law. That’s changed now – the new compensation right in the revised IED is a revelatory solution. We should be seeing more of this in the next generation of EU laws.”


Notes for editors:

New EU laws on industrial pollution not fit for zero pollution ambition
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