RECOMMENDATION on the draft Council decision on the acceptance of the Amendments to the 1998 Protocol to the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution on Heavy Metals

    7.1.2016 - (08648/2015 – C8‑0157/2015 – 2014/0359(NLE)) - ***

    Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety
    Rapporteur: Giovanni La Via

    Procedure : 2014/0359(NLE)
    Document stages in plenary
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    on the draft Council decision on the acceptance of the Amendments to the 1998 Protocol to the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution on Heavy Metals

    (08648/2015 – C8‑0157/2015 – 2014/0359(NLE))


    The European Parliament,

    –  having regard to the draft Council decision (08648/2015),

    –  having regard to the Amendments to the 1998 Protocol to the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution on Heavy Metals (08648/2015 ADD 1),

    –  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 192(1) and Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a), of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8‑0157/2015),

    –  having regard to Rule 99(1), first and third subparagraphs, Rule 99(2), and Rule 108(7) of its Rules of Procedure,

    –  having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (A8-0002/2016),

    1.  Gives its consent to acceptance of the Amendments to the Protocol;

    2.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.


    The Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution is intended to protect the human environment against air pollution. Several studies performed between 1972 and 1977 had shown that air pollutants could travel several thousand kilometres before deposition. Problems caused by air pollution therefore need to be addressed on the international level. Signed in 1979 and entering into force in 1983, the Convention was the first international legally binding instrument in this area. It has created the framework for controlling and reducing the damage to human health and to the environment caused by transboundary air pollution. The Convention identifies the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) as its secretariat. The Convention is implemented and monitored through the Co-operative Programme for Monitoring and Evaluation of the Long-range Transmissions of Air Pollutants in Europe (EMEP).

    To date, the Convention has been extended by eight protocols, which identify specific measures to be taken by Parties to reduce their air pollutant emissions. The first protocol under the Convention was signed in 1984 and provided a financing scheme for activities under EMEP. The second protocol, which tackled sulphur emissions, was the first substantive measure on air pollution abatement. Protocols three, four and five addressed nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and once more sulphur emissions and their transboundary fluxes. The 1991 protocol on VOCs saw the move from a single substance to a more effective group approach. This was continued with the two 1998 Aarhus protocols on heavy metals and on persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The eighth protocol, which intends to fight acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone, is the first multi-pollutant and multi-effect protocol, and comprises specific national emission ceilings and reduction commitments for various substances.

    The 1998 Aarhus Protocol on Heavy Metals (the Protocol) aims to reduce and control anthropogenic emission into the air of lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd) and mercury (Hg). It requires Parties to reduce their total annual emissions for these three metals below their levels in 1990 or an alternative year between 1985 and 1995. The Protocol aims to cut emissions from industrial sources (iron and steel industry, non-ferrous metal industry), combustion processes (power generation, road transport), and waste incineration. It sets limit values for emissions from specific major stationary sources and requires the use of best available techniques (BAT). Parties must also develop and maintain emission inventories for Pb, Cd and Hg, phase out leaded petrol, and reduce Hg concentration levels in alkaline batteries. The Protocol proposes the introduction of management measures for other Hg containing products, including measuring devices.

    The accession of the Community to the Protocol was approved on behalf of the Community by Council Decision 2001/379/EC of 4 April 2001. The Protocol, which entered into force on 29 December 2003, has been transposed into EU law through several instruments. The Parties reviewed the Protocol with regard to the sufficiency and effectiveness of its obligations, and in 2009 and 2010 agreed on the opening of negotiations for the revision of the Protocol's text and annexes. In December 2012, the Protocol was amended by Decisions 2012/5, 2012/6 and 2012/7, the latter two referring to BAT.

    Decision 2012/5 has to be ratified by the Parties. The amended Protocol sets out, in particular, stricter limit values for dust emissions from certain major stationary sources, as well as flexible transitional arrangements that shall benefit those Parties that will accede the amended Protocol before the end of 2019, including countries in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.

    The amendment to the Protocol is already largely covered by EU legislation, and will be further transposed via a new Directive setting updated national emission ceilings for certain atmospheric pollutants and providing for annual national emission inventories that shall cover, among others, emissions of lead, cadmium and mercury.

    The draft Council Decision lists the text of the amendment to the Protocol via Decision 2012/5 in its Annex. As explained above, the amendment is fully consistent with existing EU legislation. The ratification of the amendment will be an important step towards a higher level of protection of human health and the environment from transboundary air pollution. The rapporteur therefore welcomes the draft Council Decision and proposes that Parliament gives its consent.


    Date adopted





    Result of final vote







    Members present for the final vote

    Marco Affronte, Margrete Auken, Pilar Ayuso, Zoltán Balczó, Catherine Bearder, Simona Bonafè, Biljana Borzan, Lynn Boylan, Cristian-Silviu Buşoi, Soledad Cabezón Ruiz, Alberto Cirio, Miriam Dalli, Seb Dance, Angélique Delahaye, Jørn Dohrmann, Stefan Eck, Bas Eickhout, Eleonora Evi, José Inácio Faria, Karl-Heinz Florenz, Francesc Gambús, Elisabetta Gardini, Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, Jens Gieseke, Sylvie Goddyn, Matthias Groote, Françoise Grossetête, Jean-François Jalkh, Giovanni La Via, Norbert Lins, Susanne Melior, Massimo Paolucci, Gilles Pargneaux, Piernicola Pedicini, Bolesław G. Piecha, Michèle Rivasi, Annie Schreijer-Pierik, Renate Sommer, Dubravka Šuica, Tibor Szanyi, Damiano Zoffoli

    Substitutes present for the final vote

    Nikos Androulakis, Nicola Caputo, Mark Demesmaeker, Herbert Dorfmann, Luke Ming Flanagan, Elena Gentile, Martin Häusling, Jan Huitema, Merja Kyllönen, Ulrike Müller, James Nicholson, Alojz Peterle, Christel Schaldemose, Jasenko Selimovic

    Substitutes under Rule 200(2) present for the final vote

    Lucy Anderson, Beatriz Becerra Basterrechea, Michał Boni, Neena Gill, Monika Hohlmeier, Sander Loones, Helga Stevens