Industrial activities are impacting our environment, health and quality of life on a massive scale. That’s why dedicated laws exist at European level to prevent and control pollution from factories, power plants and other large-scale industrial activities. The EEB provides expert advice to European and national policymakers, industry and other stakeholders to encourage the use of truly best practices. We advocate for the prevention of pollution impact at source and accelerating the transition to zero-pollution, decarbonised, and circular industrial processes that respect planetary boundaries. 

Industrial activities, from the production of cement, energy, intensive rearing of livestock to waste management are responsible for negative environmental impacts through the release and transfer of harmful pollutants, including sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, dust and mercury and other heavy metals, into the air, water and soil. Large scale industrial activities also eat up precious resources (incl. energy and water), use and/or produce hazardous chemicals and generate pollution negatively affecting human health and the environment. 

The human health cost of air, water and soil pollution from industry is measured in billions of euros each year, with toxic emissions causing health conditions such as asthma, bronchitis and cancer. Industrial pollution incl. greenhouse gas emissions are also threatening nature and wildlife, as well as our crops and built environment. Remediation costs (e.g. water treatment, soil decontamination, marine depollution) and loss of ecosystem services are not fully paid by the polluters.  

Furthermore, the overall safety of industrial activities is of utmost importance. Production processes involving chemicals that could, if something were to go wrong, have hazardous or life-threatening effects on communities and the environment must be properly and effectively regulated notably through the substitution of substances of concern at source.  

Over 50,000 industrial installations in the EU are subject to the rules set in a single piece of European law – the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED). This legislation aims to prevent, and where not technically feasible, reduce negative impacts, promote resource efficiency and curtail the production and use of hazardous chemicals by setting agreed standards for different industrial activities, with the aim to achieving a high level of protection of the environment taken as a whole. These standards are known as the ‘Best Available Techniques’ (or BAT), and the EEB plays a crucial role in the process that agrees these standards, constantly calling for improved environmental and human health protection performance for all activities, prioritising prevention at source.  

Energy generation from fossil fuels, particularly coal, is one of the most polluting activities in the EU, greatly affecting public health and nature and climate protection at a global scale. The EEB is an active partner of the Europe Beyond Coal campaign, aiming a phase out of fossil fuel energy generation in Europe by 2035, with coal exiting the mix by latest 2030. 

We want the EU to become a leader in environmental pollution prevention standards setting, fully aligned to the zero-pollution (incl. climate neutrality) ambition. We will play our role so that industry and decision makers ‘walk the EU Green Deal talk’.   

The team is also involved in policy initiatives, projects and evidence-gathering that provide for enabling tools so to benchmark industrial performance in pollution prevention efforts, improve transparency and accountability to the “green oath” of operators and decision makers. Notable examples are as follows:  

Further activities of the team: 

  • Engage in initiatives under corporate sustainability reporting and due diligence, industry related initiatives aimed to improving the balance of public vs. private interest stakeholder representation, the setting of key performance indicators to track progress in the delivery of the zero-pollution ambition and supporting accountability in decision making notably within European Commission expert groups; 
  • Carry out advocacy activities focused on Just Transition and EU State aid, particularly concerning the use of public money e.g. for remediation activities and supporting the industrial transformation; 
  • Shaping of the EU Taxonomy;  
  • Support initiatives that put the polluter-pays principle into practice, notably through the systematic internalisation of external costs of pollution and advocating for a more robust regime for environmental liability (e.g. review of the Environmental Liability Directive). We aim to redirect finance to provide a real driving force towards climate neutrality and zero pollution.  

The EEB’s Industry Working Group meets periodically, gathering experts from across Europe to discuss issues relating to industrial pollution and how to address them. 

Library for Zero Pollution Industry