National Emissions Ceiling Directive

The National Emissions Ceiling Directive 2001/81/EC, set individual member state ceilings, in absolute terms, for national levels of specific transboundary pollutants (e.g. ammonia, oxides of nitrogen) in 2010. The Directive had the stated ambition of reducing environmental (e.g. eutrophication, acidification) and health impacts. The Directive has been replaced by a new Directive 2016/2284/EU which came into force on the 31st of December 2016. The new Directive will ensure that the 2010 ceilings are respected until the end of 2019, at which point the 2020 ceilings will come into force. The 2020 ceilings mirror the national emission reduction commitments agreed under the umbrella of the 2012 revision of the United Nations’ Gothenburg Protocol. The new NECD also sets further, more ambitious reduction commitments for 2030, with the stated ambition of cutting the health impacts of air pollution by half compared with 2005. The new NECD covers five primary air pollutants and establishes specific national ceilings in the form of a percentage reduction of emissions from 2005 inventory levels. The primary air pollutants included are nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx), volatile organics (VOCs), ammonia (NH3), and fine particulates (PM2.5).

Ambient Air Quality Directive

Directive 2008/50/EC, the Ambient Air Quality Directive, built on the AAQ assessment and management Directive 96/62/EC. Specifically the new Directive incorporated much of the relevant prior legislation into a single streamlined Directive whilst holding existing air quality objectives in place. The new AAQ Directive also set objectives for PM2.5, including limit values and exposure related objectives. It also provided for the possibility to discount natural sources of pollution when assessing compliance against limit values, and offered the possibility for time extensions of three years (PM10) or up to five years (NO2, benzene) for complying with limit values. Overall, this merged Directive represents the core piece of European legislation governing standards for AAQ in Europe, and sets specific limits for the concentration levels of ambient air pollution throughout European member states with regard to a number of these harmful pollutants. The major drivers of this Directive are concerns for human health and the presence of more localised ‘hot spots’ of pollution that may not be captured under the broader national level NECD.

Climate Change – Effort Sharing Decision and Effort Sharing Regulation

The ESD establishes legally binding targets for the reduction of GHG Emissions not covered under the EU ETS for all member states. The current ESD runs from 2013 until 2020 and requires an aggregate, EU-wide reduction in Non-ETS (NETS) emissions of 10% relative to 2005 levels in 2020. The key sectoral areas are transport, buildings and agriculture. Each Member State was assigned a national emissions reduction target, with Ireland’s target located at the higher end of the scale at minus 20%. The starting point for the 2013-2020 period required that the reductions trajectory be calculated as an average of recorded emissions between 2008-2010. The annual emission allocations between 2013 and 2020 are then defined along a linear trajectory in order to achieve the 20% reduction required by 2020. In August of 2017 the Commission made a decision to amend the AEAs for Member States for the years 2017-2020. The Commission Decision 2017/1471 amends Decision 2013/162/EU to revise Member States’ AEAs and implements Decision 2013/634/EU on adjustments. Therefore, the AEAs of each Member State remain determined as the difference between the values laid down in the Annex II of the Decision 2013/162/EU, which has now been updated via the Annex of Decision 2017/1471, and the values laid down in Annex II of the Decision 2013/634/EU which remain in force.

In July 2016, the European Commission presented a legislative proposal, the ESR for the period 2021-2030. The proposal specifies a European emissions reduction target of 40% by 2030 compared to 1990. Under the proposal, those sectors of the economy not covered by the EU ETS must reduce emissions by 30% by 2030 compared to 2005 as their contribution to the overall target. The proposed ESR translates this commitment into binding AEAs for each Member State for the post-2020 period and accounts for all GHGs including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). The proposed ESR applies to emissions from IPCC source categories of energy, industrial processes and product use, agriculture and waste, and excludes emissions covered by the EU ETS and emissions and removals covered by the LULUCF Regulation. The most recent provisional agreement on the ESR adjusts the starting trajectory so that a linear trajectory starts from five twelfths of the distance from 2019-2020. The starting figure is still based on an average of 2016-2018 but with an earlier start date the trajectory and linear pathway for AEAs is slightly different. The 2030 target is set at a 30% reduction from the 2005 emission level.

Renewable Energy Directive

The Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC requires the EU to meet 20% of its total energy requirements with renewable energy by 2020. Sources of renewable energy can include solar, hydro, tidal, geothermal and biomass. The Directive is motivated by seeking to capture the range of benefits that can be achieved through increasing renewable energy share in the European economy. These benefits can include reduced dependence on imported fossil fuels, making energy production more sustainable, and supporting technological innovation and employment across Europe.

As with many Directives, the overall European ambition is comprised of a varied range of individual EU member state targets for renewable energy. These range from 10% in Malta to 49% in Sweden, with Ireland’s mandatory target stating that 16% of gross final energy consumption must come from renewable sources by 2020. The renewable energy Directive also splits out the contributions from the Heat sector (RES-H), Transport sector (RES-T) and Electricity generation sector (RES-E). In Ireland’s case the respective contributions will be 12%, 10% and 40% respectively.

All countries have developed National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAPs) to demonstrate the actions they are taking in order to meet their set targets. The EU publishes progress reports every two years. The 2017 report states that the EU as a whole achieved 16% share of renewable energy in 2014 and 16.4% by 2015. The majority of EU countries are currently on track to reach their 2020 binding targets. Ireland has made progress, but the most recent report suggests there is still a significant distance to travel in the period to 2020

Energy Efficiency Directive

The European Union EU ETS is a cap and trade system targeting emissions of GHGs from major industrial and power generation activities in Europe. The EU ETS sets a cap on EU emissions from ETS activities at 21% below 2005 levels in 2020. The EU ETS differs from other Directives in so far as the individual operators are responsible for their own EU ETS compliance, whilst the Member State’s role is more on administrative functions related to monitoring, reporting and verification, as well as access to the national registry.

Under the EU 2030 Climate and Energy Framework all EU ETS sectors will have to cut emissions by 43% compared to 2005 as their contribution to the overall goal of at least 40% cuts in overall GHGs from 1990 levels. With these strict guidelines in place, the phase 4 revisions to the EU ETS for the period 2021-2030 will outline annual emissions reductions of 2.2% from 2021 onwards, this is compared to the current annual reductions target of 1.74%. Ultimately, this will amount to an additional emissions reduction of 556 million tonnes over the decade.

Water Quality

The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD)(2000/60/EC) is a legal framework designed to protect and restore clean water and to ensure its long-term sustainable use. Under the WFD, surface waters (i.e. rivers, lakes, transitional waters and coastal waters) are classified into five ecological status quality categories: High, Good, Moderate, Poor and Bad. Initially, EU countries were tasked with achieving good quantitative and chemical status in their waterways by 2015. However, this first cycle of the WFD, running from 2010-2015 was criticised for being too ambitious with the lack of a clear governance structure and the need for a better evidence base cited as the rational for Ireland’s waterways not achieving uniform “good” status. The second cycle running from 2015-2021 sought to correct for these failings by improving communication and public engagement with the project and imposing a chain of command on the programme. The Department of Communications Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) would serve as overall project leads, assisted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and local authorities.

The improvement of the evidence base, is the responsibility of the EPA who are tasked with monitoring, assessing and reporting on the waterway’s classification. This classification process feeds into the River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) – a requirement of EU countries looking to conform to the WFD. The 2018-21 RBMP, sets out the actions Ireland will take to achieve good quality waterways by 2027. It commits to a €1.7 billion investment in waste water treatment projects; the provision of 43 local authority investigative assessment personnel; the establishment of a sustainability and advisory support programme and the extension of the domestic waste water treatment systems grant scheme.

Due to the diversity of marine ecosystems and the cross-cutting nature of Ireland’s RBMP the Water Framework Directive (WFD) is linked to other EU directives and government policies in several ways. The primary agricultural measure of the RBMP is the Nitrates directive (91/676/EEC) which protects water against pollution caused by nitrates and phosphates from agricultural sources. Similarly, both the 2019 Climate Action Plan and the 2017 National Mitigation Plan highlight the impact that unsustainable agricultural practices and climate change can have on water quality and as such advocate for improved nitrogen efficiency and land use.

Waste Management

The Waste Framework Directive (WFD)(2008/98/EC) is central to EU waste management policy as it sets out formal definitions and enshrines core principles such as the ‘polluter pays principle’ (the cost of waste should be borne by the producer insofar as possible), the ‘proximity principle’ (waste should be dealt with as close as possible to where it arises) and the ‘waste hierarchy’ (prevention, reuse, recycling, recovery and lastly disposal). Additional waste management directives for which Ireland has been assigned targets are the Packaging Directive (94/62/EC) as amended (2005/20/EC); End of Life Vehicles Directive (2000/53/EC); Batteries Directive (2006/66/EC); Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC); and the WEEE Directive (2012/19/EC).