Despite recurring air quality problems, pollutant emissions are decreasing. However, the limits for concentrations in ambient air of NO2, particles (PM10) and ozone are still not respected everywhere in France, especially in large urban areas and when atmospheric conditions keep from dispersing pollutants or increase their formation. Thus, pollution episodes regularly occur in winter and spring in terms of particles and in summer for ozone. Due in particular to non-compliance with the concentration limit values for PM10 and NO2, the European Commission has moreover launched infringement proceedings against France and the latter has been brought before the European Court of Justice for its excessively high concentrations of NO2 in 12 cities. However, the inventory results show pollutant emissions falling between 1990 and 2017. In particular, the emissions of ozone precursors fell sharply between 1990 and 2017 according to the latest results for 2018: -59% for NOx (including NO2), -75% for NMVOC, -74% for CO and – 20% for CH4. PM10 and PM2.5 emissions also decreased by 54% and 62% respectively over the same period. Generally speaking, reductions in emissions of this sort are detected all over Europe.
Pollutant emissions in France – where are we now ?
Emission decrease of particulate matter and acidification, eutrophication and ozone precursors
Despite recurring air quality problems, and in particular episodes of particulate matter and ozone pollution, it was observed that the emissions of particles (PM10, PM2.5, PM1) and acidification, eutrophication and ozone precursor pollutants (in particular NOx and NMVOC) have been declining since 1990. Annual emissions for France in a whole are therefore not a good indicator of the evolution of local and occasional concentrations but remain a key element in political decision-making and the implementation of reduction measures at both national and local levels.
-75% to -99,5% emission reductions
Emissions of most heavy metals (zinc, cadmium, mercury, nickel, chromium, lead) and persistent organic pollutants (PCB, PCDD-F, HCB) have decreased by more than 75% since 1990, with reductions greater than 95% (PCDD-F, Cr, Pb, HCB).
Warning: difference between emissions and concentrations
Citepa estimates pollutant emissions (total estimated quantities, at national level and on an annual basis) and not the concentrations in the ambient air (quantities measured by air volume, local). Air quality does not depend only on the emissions of primary pollutants (those estimated by Citepa), but also other phenomena, in particular meteorological: transport and dispersion by wind and rain, deposits, chemical reactions (such as the formation of secondary particles from primary pollutants in the gaseous state (NOx and NH3 in particular, VOCs) , formation of ozone from precursors favored by solar radiation and high temperatures), topography, resuspension of particles already emitted, etc. Thus the air quality at a point results from local emissions, emissions transported over more or less long distances depending on pollutants, meteorology and atmospheric chemical reactions. Air quality, assessed in terms of concentrations, is monitored by regional Approved Air Quality Surveillance Associations (AASQA).
Does France meet its pollutant emission targets ?
NEC-2 & PREPA Directive
NEC-2 Directive (emission reduction of some pollutants)
Directive (EU) 2016/2284 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 December 2016 covering certain atmospheric pollutants national emission reduction, also called NEC-2 Directive, was published in OJEC L 344 on 17 December 2016. This text revises Directive 2001/81 / EC on national emission ceilings, known as Directive NEC-1, adopted on 23 October 2001. It aimed to limit emissions of pollutants causing acidification and eutrophication and forming ozone precursors. It established national emission ceilings (in absolute value) for four substances which are the same as those covered by the Gothenburg Protocol before its amendment in 2012, such as: SO2, NOx, NMVOC and NH3. These ceilings were set for 2010.
The new directive, which repealed the NEC I directive on 1 July 2018, sets reduction commitments for 2020 to 2030 and beyond. Furthermore, it brings into line with EU law the commitments under Gothenburg Protocol revision adopted on 4 May 2012. Member States must limit their annual anthropogenic emissions for five pollutants: SO2, NOx, NH3, NMVOC and PM2.5 (additional pollutant compared with the NEC Directive) in accordance with the national reduction commitments set out in Annex II of the Directive (these commitments are not ceilings (kt), but reduction relative targets in % concerning 2020 or 2030 deadlines, compared with 2005 reference year. In the remainder of this chapter the term ceiling is used, even for this revised Directive. The ceiling was calculated on the basis of the latest inventory data available for 2005). These national commitments are binding objectives assigned to Member States. These commitments concern two deadlines: 2020 and 2030. That is to say the 2020 commitments must be achieved during at least all the 2020-2029 period.
Atmospheric pollutant emissions national project Plan (called “PREPA”)
The Act n°2015-992 of 17 August 2015 on the energy transition (called « LTE ») has been published in the Official Journal on 18 August 2015, also sets out a general target against air pollution : the national energy policy must contribute to achieving the reducing atmospheric pollution targets provided for by the National Plan for the Reduction of Atmospheric Pollutant Emissions (PREPA) (article 1). Under article 64 of the LTE, the Ministry in charge of the Environment adopted the PREPA in May 2017 (thus replacing the previous PREPA adopted in July 2003), in order to improve air quality and to reduce the exposure of populations to air pollution (cf. Order of 10 May 2017 establishing the PREPA). To this end, national targets for reducing atmospheric pollutant emissions are set by Decree No. 2017-949 of May 10, 2017 for the periods 2020-2024, 2025-2029 and from 2030. The PREPA should be reassessed every five years and, if necessary, revised.
NOX (2010 ceiling: NEC-1) not met
Period covered: 2010 | Ceiling to be reached: 810 kt in 2010 | Actual emissions: 1 077 kt in 2010 (937 kt with the same method of calculating emissions as during the development of the NEC-1 Directive)
The 2010 NOx emission limit was not respected in 2010: emissions did not fall below this limit until 2017 (807 kt). As the ceiling was set in absolute value, it is necessary to take into account the difference in estimation method between when this ceiling was set and today’s estimate. Thus, if we estimate the NOx emissions in the same way as at the time [so-called adjusted emissions], then this ceiling was reached in 2014 (749 kt).
NOx (2020 ceiling: NEC-2, PREPA) in progress
Period covered: 2020 | Ceiling to be reached: 710 kt NOX in 2020 (-50% compared to 2005) | Actual emissions: 807 kt in 2017
The targets defined in the NEC-2 Directive are as follows: -50% in 2020 (base 2005) and -69% from 2030 (base 2005). PREPA adds an intermediate target of -60% for the period 2025-2029. To achieve reductions in 2020, NOx emissions must drop from 807 kt in 2017 to 710 kt in 2020, i.e. decrease by 97 kt in 3 years, corresponding to an annual decrease of -32 kt/year. Since 2010, emissions have experienced an annual decrease of -39 kt/year. If this rate of decline continues, the 2020 ceiling can be reached.
NH3 (2010 ceiling: NEC-1) met
Period covered: 2010 | Ceiling to be reached: 780 kt in 2010 | Actual emissions: 604 kt in 2010
The ceiling of 780 kt to be respected in 2010 was in fact respected from the start of the period, since emissions never exceeded the historical maximum of 664 kt in 1987. They have gradually decreased over a certain period but have stagnated around 600 kt / year since 2005.
NH3 (2020 ceiling: NEC-2, PREPA) in progress
Period covered: 2020 | Ceiling to be reached: 581 kt NH3 en 2020 (-4% compared to 2005) | Actual emissions: 606 kt NH3 in 2017
The targets defined in the NEC-2 Directive are as follows: -4% in 2020 (base 2005) and -13% from 2030 (base 2005). PREPA adds an intermediate target of -8% for the period 2025-2029. To reach the target in 2020, NH3 emissions must drop from 606 kt in 2017 to 581 kt in 2020, either decrease by 25 kt in 3 years, or an annual decrease of -8.3 kt/year. However, since 2005, emissions have stagnated at around 600 kt / year since 2005. Achieving the 2020 target requires a steady decline in NH3 emissions from 2017 to 2020.
NMVOC (2010 ceiling: NEC-1) met
Period covered: 2010 | Target to be reached: 1 050 kt in 2010 | Actual emissions: 817 kt in 2010
The limit of 1 050 kt to be respected in 2010 was actually respected from 2007 (with 966 kt).
NMVOC (2020 ceiling: NEC-2, PREPA) already met
Period covered: 2020 | Target to be reached: 670 kt in 2020 (-43% compared to 2005) | Actual emissions: 612 kt in 2017
The targets defined in the NEC-2 Directive are as follows: -43% in 2020 (base 2005) and -52% from 2030 (base 2005). PREPA adds an intermediate target of -47% for the period 2025-2029. The 2020 target (670 kt) has already been reached in 2014 (661 kt). PREPA’s intermediate objective, 623 kt for 2025-2029, has also already been reached. To reach the 2030 target of 564 kt, emissions must fall further by 48 kt between 2017 and 2030, i.e. an average decrease of around 4 kt/year. In recent years, emissions have decreased from -10 kt to -30 kt/year.
PM2,5 (2020 ceiling: NEC-2, PREPA) already met
Period covered: 2020 | Target to be reached: 190 kt in 2020 (-27% compared to 2005) | Actual emissions: 164 kt in 2017
PM2.5 were not covered by NEC-1. The reductions defined in the NEC-2 Directive are as follows: -27% in 2020 (base 2005) and -57% from 2030 (base 2005). PREPA adds an intermediate target of -42% for the period 2025-2029. The 2020 ceiling has already been reached: fine particle emissions must therefore not increase for the following years. This is unlikely as emissions have been falling steadily since 1990.
Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP)
Under the aegis of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) was signed by 32 countries (including France) in 1979, making it the oldest multilateral treaty on air pollution. It entered into force in 1983. The CLRTAP, also called the Air Convention, defines the general principles of international cooperation for the reduction of atmospheric pollution and the establishment of an institutional framework that brings together research and policy. The Convention has contributed to the reduction of the harmful effects of air pollution on human health and the environment. It was the pollutant effects of (“acid rain”) on forests and lakes in many countries of the northern hemisphere in the 1960s and 1970s that prompted the 32 states of the pan-European region to establish this cooperation.
In the framework of the CLRTAP, several Protocols have been adopted in order to reduce air emissions. These Protocols assign to each signatory Party either a commitment to reduce emissions by a given percentage compared to a baseline year, or emission ceilings it must comply with. Over the years, the number of pollutants targeted by the CLRTAP and its Protocols has gradually increased to cover black carbon, persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals and fine particles.
Helsinki Protocol (SO2) met
Period covered: 1993 | Reduction to be achieved: 1276 kt SO2 in 1993 (-60% compared to 1980) | Actual emissions: 1087 kt SO2 in 1993
The first sulphur Protocol, signed in Helsinki on 8 July 1985, came into force on 2 September 1987. France’s target was to reduce its emissions by 30% from 1980 to 1993. France had also undertaken to reduce its emissions by 60%, following the example of twelve States committing to emission reductions of at least 50%. The target of -30% and the voluntary target of -60% have been achieved as emissions have decreased by -66%.
Oslo Protocol (SO2) met
Period covered: 2000, 2005, 2010 | Reduction to be achieved: 868, 770 and then 737 kt SO2 (in 2000, 2005 and 2010) | Actual emissions: 626, 460 and then 278 kt (in 2000, 2005 and 2010)
The second sulphur Protocol, signed in Oslo on 14 June 1994, came into force on 5 August 1998. The new target for France was a further gradual reduction in emissions (868 kt in 2000, 770 kt in 2005 and 737 kt in 2010). The ceilings set have been very largely respected by France.
Since 1990, the drop in SO2 emissions in the various sectors can be explained by: the reduction in fossil energy consumption due to the implementation of the nuclear power program and the development of renewable energies; the implementation of energy saving actions; the progress made by manufacturers through the use of less sulfur-containing fuels and the improvement of the energy efficiency of installations. In addition to these reductions, various regulatory provisions on the sulfur content in fuels have been added, reinforcing the decrease observed.
Sofia Protocol (NOX) not met
Period covered: 1994, 1998 | Reduction to be achieved: 1 881 and then 1 418 kt (1994 and then 1998) | Actual emissions: 1 836 puis 1726 kt (1994 and then 1998)
The first target of the Protocol has been met
The NOx Protocol, signed in Sofia on 1 November 1988, came into force on 14 February 1991. France’s target was to stabilize its emissions from 1987 to 1994. The actual emissions in 1994, 1836 kt, are, to within 45 kt, below this ceiling which should not be exceeded.
Voluntary target not met
France made an additional commitment to reduce its emissions by 30% from 1980 to 1998. The actual emissions in 1998, 1726 kt, exceed this voluntary commitment by 308 kt. It was not until 2006 to reach an emission level lower than this commitment.
Geneva Protocol (NMVOC) met
Period covered: 1999 | Reduction to be achieved: 1 756 kt (-30% compared to 1988) | Actual emissions: 1 750 kt in 1999
The COV Protocol, signed in Geneva on 18 November 1991, came into force on 29 September 1997. Biogenic sources (natural sources) are excluded from this commitment. France agreed to reduce its emissions by 30% from 1988 to 1999. This target was reached within 6 kt. NMVOCs emissions are in continuous decline since 1980, with an average rate of around -70 kt/year in the 1990s, -100 kt/year in the 2000s, -20 kt/year in the years 2010.
The acidification, eutrophication and tropospheric ozone Protocol, known as “multi-pollutants / multi-effects”, signed in Gothenburg on 1 December 1999 by 31 Parties including France, came into force on 17 May 2005. It deals with three pollutants already concerned by the Protocols mentioned above (SO2, NOx and NMVOC ) and NH3 in addition. France has to abide by emission ceilings defined in absolute mass release in 2010. Those ceilings were 400 kt for SO2, 860 kt for NOx, 1 100 kt for NMVOC and 780 kt for NH3. Those ceilings are much lower than those set in the previous Protocols. The Gothenburg Protocol has been postponed on 4 May 2012. Indeed, despite emission reductions done, the pollutants effects on health and ecosystems are still current. More reduction commitments for 2020 horizon compared with 2005 as reference year have been set out for the four pollutants already covered in the Protocol (SO2, NOx, NMVOC and NH3) but also for the primary fine particles (PM2.5) Thus, the Gothenburg Protocol revised in 2012 is the first binding multilateral treaty to set emission reduction commitments for PM2.5.
These commitments are, for France, a reduction in emissions of 55% for SO2, 50% for NOx, 43% for NMVOC , 4% for NH3 and 27% for PM2.5 compared with 2005 emissions. The amended Protocol establishes new emission limit values (ELVs) for certain activities concerning the five pollutants. Black carbon has been introduced in the Protocol too which becomes the first Protocol to take into account this short-lived climate pollutant, in particular by a reporting system for black carbon emissions at the level of the UNECE zone. However, no ELVs or ceilings are currently in place for black carbon, but recommendations are given to Parties, in particular to focus reductions in PM2.5 emissions on sources rich in black carbon.
Gothenburg Protocol amendment will come into force after 19 ratifications (two thirds of the 27 Parties having ratified the Gothenburg Protocol of 1999), with entry into force 90 days later. France has not yet ratified it. Switzerland is the 19th Party to ratify it: on June 11, 2019, the Swiss Parliament approved the amendment to the Gothenburg Protocol. Switzerland therefore deposited its instrument of ratification with UNECE on 24 July 2019, which allowed the amendment to the Protocol to enter into force on 7 October 2019.
UNECE also plans to launch a new revision, from the end of 2019 or during 2020, of the Gothenburg Protocol, once the 2012 amendment has entered into force. As far as France is concerned, the expiring commitments of all the Protocols have been met for the most part. For NOx, however, it should be observed that the reduction level was reached with a lag of a few years (NOx Sofia and NOx Göteborg 1999).
SO2 – target 2010 (Göteborg-1) met
Period covered: 2010 | Ceiling to be reached: 400 kt | Actual emissions: 278 kt in 2010
SO2 – target 2020 (Göteborg-2) already met
Period covered: 2020 | Ceiling to be reached: 207 kt (-55% par rapport à 2005) | Actual emissions: 144 kt SO2/an in 2017
NOX – target 2010 (Göteborg-1) not met
Period covered: 2010 | Ceiling to be reached: 860 kt | Actual emissions: 1 077 kt in 2010
NOX – target 2020 (Göteborg-2) in progress
Period covered: 2020 | Ceiling to be reached: 710 kt (-50% compared to 2005) | Actual emissions: 807 kt in 2017
NMVOC – target 2010 (Göteborg-1) met
Period covered: 2010 | Ceiling to be reached: 1 100 kt | Actual emissions: 817 kt in 2010
NMVOC – target 2020 (Göteborg-2) already met
Period covered: 2020 | Ceiling to be reached: 670 kt (-43% compared to 2005) | Actual emissions: 612 kt in 2017
Minamata Convention (Hg – mercury)
This target does not directly aim to reduce emissions but the manufacture, import and export of mercury-based products.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury was formally adopted on October 10, 2013 under the aegis of UN Environment (formerly UNEP) and entered into force in 2017. It is aimed at, inter alia, reducing mercury atmospheric emissions originating from five stationary source categories: coal electricity production plants, coal powered industrial boilers, non-ferrous metals smelting, waste incineration plants, cement plants. After ratification by EU as economic integration regional organization and seven of its 28 Member States (Bulgaria, Denmark, Hungary, Malta, Netherlands, Romania and Sweden) mid-May 2017, the Convention entered into force on 16 August 2017. France ratified it on 15 June 2017.
To go further
More details on the targets and their history, and the international and European context
Access official texts, institutional websites and air commitments from France and other countries
At French level (in French)
At EU level
- European Commission – national emission reduction, national air pollution reduction programmes, NAPCP (site de la DG Environnement)
- NEC Directive: version 1 (2001/81/EC) ; version 2 (2016/2284)
- 2019 review of the progress made by Member States towards compliance with the 2010 national emission ceilings which apply until the end of 2019 (EEA analysis note)
- Directive “said” CAFE : Directive 2008/50/EC (air quality standards for and Directive 2004/107/EC
- Air quality standards (concentration limit values, target values, quality targets, etc.)
- Summary table of international (WHO), European and French standards: PDF
- Air quality report for Europe : edition 2019 (data 2000-2017)
- National ambient air quality monitoring plan (PNSQA) of 2016 (defines the organizational, technical and financial orientations of the national air quality monitoring system for the period 2016-2021) (in French only)
At international level
Access official emissions data for France and other countries
Access to EU emission data
- EU air pollutant emissions inventory under the CLRTAP: report 2019 (data 2017) (UNECE)
- Data viewer to view air pollutant emissions data from EU Member States, 1990-2017 (under CLRTAP and Gothenburg Protocol)
Global emission data
- Pollutant emission data by country (1970-2012), JRC (EDGAR database): download
- To our knowledge, there are no other more recent data on emissions of air pollutants at the global level.
Access information on air quality standards
The air quality standards (concentrations) are defined at the French, European and international levels and can be consulted on the following links: