At the international level there are a number of agreements, or conventions, that have been reached with the aim of regulating emissions of air pollutants.
Until the early nineties, European Union policy regarding air pollution tended to be fragmented. As from the mid-1990s the work is more strategically oriented. A directive establishing national emission ceilings (NEC) for four air pollutants was adopted in 2001. That same year also saw the launch of the Clean Air for Europe Programme (CAFE), which in 2005 lead to the adoption of a Thematic Strategy on air pollution. In 2008 a new air quality directive was adopted, and in 2010 a new directive on industrial emissions of air pollutants was agreed. 2013 was named “the EU year of air”, and in December that year the European Commission presented a Clean Air Policy Package, including a proposal for a revised NEC directive. After more than two years of discussions in the European Parliament and the Council, a new NEC directive was agreed in late June 2016. In December it was published in the EU’s Official Journal and it entered into force on 31 December 2016.
The Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (the LRTAP Convention) was signed by some 30 countries in Europe and North America in 1979. It currently has 51 signatories and has been extended by eight protocols, the most recent being the so-called Gothenburg Protocol signed in 1999, which entered into force in 2005, and was revised in 2012.
For a long time international shipping was a more or less unregulated source of air pollution. While pollutant emissions from land-based sources are gradually coming down, those from shipping show a continuous increase. An air pollution annex to the International Maritime Organization’s MARPOL Convention was agreed in 1997, entered into force in May 2005, and was revised and strengthened in 2008. Within the EU, some ship emissions are regulated by the sulphur-in-fuels directive, which was updated and revised in 2012.
The basis of international policy for dealing with climate change is the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was signed in 1992 and came into effect in 1994. It has been extended in the Kyoto Protocol, which came into effect in 2005. Negotiations on the next commitment period, after 2012, are currently ongoing.