Tracking down the worst polluters in Europe

The dirtiest power plants in Europe still emit enormous amounts of air pollutants. The sulphur emissions from one plant match those of ten EU countries combined.

On 9 November, the first inventory of the new European pollutant release and transfer register (E-PRTR) was published. It contains 2007 data on emissions of 91 polluting substances from more than 24,000 industrial facilities in the EU27 and Norway.

The database fulfils a requirement under the Aarhus convention’s Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR), which entered into force on 8 October (see note).

A publicly accessible website has been set up, with a search engine that allows visitors to search using one or more criteria and a map tool. For example, visitors can search emissions from a specific industrial site by name or location.

The table showing the “dirty dozen”, i.e. the highest-emitting power plant point sources of air pollutants, is based on data from the E-PRTR website.

Despite the existence of EU legislation, such as the IPPC and LCP directives, individual plants can obviously still be allowed to emit enormous amounts of pollution. For example, the Maritsa 2 power plant in Bulgaria alone emits as much SO2 as ten countries – Austria, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden – combined!

It is notable that the SO2 emissions from just twelve plants add up to nearly two million tons, representing one quarter of the total SO2 emissions from all sources in the EU’s 27 member states combined.

It is also noteworthy that seven of the twelve highest NOx emitters are located in the United Kingdom, and that eight of the twelve worst CO2 emitters are to be found in Germany.

Christer Ågren

The E-PRTR register is accessible at:

Note: The Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters seeks to promote greater transparency and accountability by guaranteeing public rights of access to environmental information, providing for public involvement in environmental decision-making and requiring the establishment of procedures enabling the public to challenge environmental decisions. It was adopted in 1998, entered into force in 2001, and has currently 43 Parties. The PRTR Protocol was adopted in May 2003, and has to date been ratified by 20 countries and the European Community.

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