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Air Emissions: General Background

The Commission's Communications on a "Strategy to reduce atmospheric emissions from seagoing ships" and the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution underline the importance of reduction of emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) from ships for the improvement of health and environment. The Strategy aims at significantly reducing premature deaths caused by air pollution by 2020 whilst simultaneously resolving environmental impacts such as acidification and eutrophication and associated losses in biodiversity. To achieve these objectives the Thematic strategy on Air Pollution put forward measures to reduce emissions of, amongst others, NOx (about 60%) and SO2 (about 80%, whilst also resulting in a significant reduction of PM emissions).

Currently in the European Union, air pollution is associated with approximately 370,000 premature mortalities from exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ground level ozone. With current policies, this is only expected to reduce to around 290,000 premature deaths per annum in 2020. The natural environment is also at risk and it has been estimated that, by 2020, on the basis of current policies, 150,000 km² of ecosystems will be at risk from acid rain, 590,000 km2 will be at risk from excess nitrogen deposition and 760,000 km2 of forest will be at risk from elevated levels of ozone.

Studies performed for the European Commission show that, by 2020, emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and primary PM2.5 from international shipping in EU seas are expected to increase from their 2000 levels by 40%, 45% and 55% to 3186, 4828 and 396 kT per annum respectively, even with effective implementation of the current IMO and EU regulatory requirements.

The vast majority of emissions in EU sea areas are emitted from cargo ships over 500 GT. About 45% of all emissions come from EU flagged ships and approximately 20% of emissions are emitted within the 12 mile limit of territorial seas. In port cities, ship emissions are in many cases a dominant source of pollution and need to be addressed when considering compliance with legally binding air quality objectives. Moreover, emissions from ships travel over hundreds of kilometres and can thus contribute to air quality problems on land even if they are emitted at sea. This is particularly relevant for the deposition of sulphur and nitrogen compounds, which cause acidification of natural ecosystems and threaten biodiversity through excessive nitrogen inputs.

Abatement measures have been applied progressively to land based sources throughout the EU, and air emissions from these sources are expected to decline significantly over the next ten to fifteen years as measures on vehicles, industrial installations and fuels take effect.

In October 2008 the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted a set of amendments to Annex VI of the MARPOL Convention which, among other things, strengthened the requirements on the permitted sulphur levels in ships' fuels. The amendments provide for a progressive reduction of the sulphur content of marine fuels.

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Marine environment in a nutshell

blue bulletAssists Member States in the implementation of forthcoming or newly adopted Legislation in the field of ship related pollution.

blue bulletAssists the Commission, Member States and the maritime industry, where appropriate, in meeting, implementing and monitoring international and European legislation and initiatives on the reduction of SOx and NOx emissions.

blue bulletAssists the Commission, Member States and the industry in the technical developments related to alternative fuels for ships as well as abatement methods.

blue bulletAssisting the Commission, Member States and the Industry in the Implementation of the EU MRV CO2 Regulation as well as in the International context on future policy developments in this area.

blue bulletSupporting the work of the Commission in the implementation of the PRF Directive.

blue bulletSupport the Commission, Member States, the Industry and the wider Maritime Community in the context of Ship Recycling, in particular regarding Title II of the regulation and the Inventories of Hazardous Materials.