[News] EU reaches agreement on new rules to reduce harmful industrial emissions

The Council of the EU has rubber-stamped the European Parliament’s final text of the newly revised Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) after extended negotiations and opposition from farming and right-wing groups.

The IED is a central pillar of the EU’s campaign to reduce emissions from industrial sources and will now include intensive livestock farms (excluding in addition to those sectors already covered in the existing directive (i.e. power plants, refineries, and waste treatment – approximately 40% of GHG emissions and 20% of air and water pollutants). And, subject to a review by the Commission, the scope could also be extended to industrial minerals.  

The revised rules are complemented by the creation of the Industrial Emissions Portal (IEP), a one-stop-shop repository of data on the EU, EEA, Serbia and Switzerland’s largest industrial complexes, including substance releases to air, water and land, energy consumption and emissions.

The IEP will also include limited information related to the UK: specifically in relation to Northern Ireland, which “shall report information on industrial sites, facilities, Large Combustion Plants, and waste incinerators”.   

The new directive aims to reduce harmful emissions and promote energy efficiency, circularity and industrial decarbonisation efforts.  It also introduces improved environmental data reporting obligations, upgrading the existing European pollutant release and transfer register (E-PRTR) targets to reduce industrial installations’ water scarcity and improve their environmental performance, resource and energy efficiency, and raw material use.  

The European Commission’s original proposal had also intended to widen the scope of the IED to include more agricultural installations.

However, after pushback and fraught negotiations, cattle farms were exempted from the legislation, and the extension only covered a small number of pig and poultry farms under the rules. However, the Commission has an obligation to review the efficacy of the IED in reducing cattle farming and agriculture by 2026, meaning that cattle farms could be included at a later date.  

In the UK, EU-era IED rules are still in place and govern domestic industrial emissions. Like in the EU, they aim to maintain environmental and health standards through the use of “Best Available Techniques” (BATs) to prevent or minimise emissions and impacts and cover the heavy metals sector, textiles, and chemicals. On farming, beyond the Sustainable Farming Incentive and the Countryside Stewardship schemes, there are no instruments specific to emissions related to the industrial rearing of animals. However,  In a recent report, the UK Government pointed to declining greenhouse gas emissions from UK agriculture.  

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