Air quality standards

The Netherlands must comply with various air quality standards.

European standards for airborne substances

The European Union (EU) has limits and targets for airborne substances.

  • The limits apply to sulphur dioxide, fine particulates, nitrogen dioxide, lead, benzene and carbon monoxide. These values may not be exceeded.
  • The targets apply to ozone, arsenic, cadmium, nickel and benzo(a)pyrene. EU member states must ensure that they stay below the target values.

Emissions ceilings for air pollutants

The Netherlands must comply with emissions ceilings for air pollutants in the form of gases and particles. An emissions ceiling indicates the maximum that a country may emit. They apply to sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), ammonia (NH3) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

The United Nations (UN) and the EU set the emissions ceilings. Agreed values have been laid down in the Gothenburg Protocol (UN) and the National Emission Ceilings (NEC) Directive (EU). New ceilings will be set for 2020, including a new emissions ceiling for fine particulates (PM2.5). The UN has agreed air pollution limits, which have been set out in the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP).

Protocols to the Convention include the Gothenburg Protocol, the Heavy Metals Protocol and the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) Protocol (on hazardous substances that degrade very slowly, or not at all).

Tightening up European clean air policy

On 18 December 2013 the European Commission (EC) presented proposals for tightening up European clean air policy. It proposed the following:

  • a new directive to reduce emissions of pollutants from medium-sized heating systems;
  • a review of the existing directive on national emissions ceilings.

The member states are currently negotiating on these proposals.