Table of Contents

  • This report was prepared by the National Environmental Research Institute (NERI) at the University of Aarhus, Denmark. The project team comprised experts from the Department of Policy Analysis (Anders Branth Pedersen, Leif Hoffmann, Mikael Skou Andersen) and from the Department of Atmospheric Environment (Jørgen Brandt, Thomas Ellermann, Lise Marie Frohn and Finn Palmgren). We are grateful to Ann- Katrine Holme Christoffersen for editorial assistance and to Carey Elizabeth Smith for linguistic proficiency.

  • The 1999 Gothenburg Protocol aimed to close the gap between critical loads, as defined from a combined ecosystem and health perspective, and emissions of the four pollutants; SO2, NOX, NH3 and VOC. To contribute to reductions in critical load exceedance, Nordic countries accepted emissions ceilings for SO2 and VOC that were stricter than those of the other protocol parties, while for NOX Nordic ceilings were at levels similar to those of European Union members. In the four Nordic countries that have signed the protocol, emissions of all four pollutants have shown a clear declining trend. While Iceland is not party to the protocol, it has similar domestic reduction targets to the other four, but Iceland has experienced increasing emissions of SO2 and NOX.

  • The purpose of this report is to offer a Nordic perspective on how the 1999 Gothenburg Protocol on emissions of NOX, SOX, NH3, and VOC has been functioning; the measures that have been taken in the Nordic countries, the effect the measures have had, and how implementation of reductions agreed under the protocol might be attained. Specific attention is directed towards the question of whether measures taken to reach the goals are cost-effective. As such, the report provides input to the revision process currently underway under the terms of the protocol.

  • The five Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden – all signed the Geneva Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) in 1979. Since then, the convention has been extended by eight protocols specifying measures to be taken by the parties to cut emissions of air pollutants. The last protocol in the series is the 1999 Gothenburg Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone.

  • In general, the goals for NOX reduction are proving the most problematic for parties to the Gothenburg Protocol. For instance, eleven EU member states predict that they will not reach the NOX ceilings in 2010, while emission reductions for the three other pollutants seem to be more on track (ENDS 2007). Likewise, the NOX goal seems to represent the toughest target for the Nordic countries.

  • How should we interpret the declines in emissions that have been or will be accomplished according to the data presented in the previous section? While it is tempting to credit the international protocols with the emission reductions, in reality their role comprises only part of the story. There are underlying structural changes in energy supply systems and transport patterns which are relatively autonomous of any measures introduced by individual countries to reduce emissions. Secondly, the approaches applied in the individual countries differ with respect to the measures introduced to curb emissions, especially with respect to the policy instruments employed. Third but not least, the various substances have different physical and chemical properties which affect the mitigation options available and, ultimately, the pattern of emissions reductions.

  • As referred to in section 4, the initial phase of air pollution protocols in the 1980s adopted flat-rate numerical reduction obligations which were criticized for their lack of cost-effectiveness. The current phase of the Gothenburg Protocol and the NEC Directive is based, in principle, on the critical load concept and the RAINS model, which have translated the detrimental effects into national emissions ceilings in terms of least-cost optimization (see also section 5.6 below).

  • The Gothenburg Protocol established a new multi-pollutant, multi-effect framework for regionally concerted action on control of conventional emissions (SO2, NOX, NH3 and VOC), with the aim of reducing gaps between existing emissions and levels regarded as desirable to avoid negative impacts on vegetation and health. The Nordic parties to the protocol are obliged to close exceedance of critical levels by 100 % for SO2, 25 % for NOX and 60 % for VOC. This entails considerable improvements on top of business-as-usual reductions, but also leaves some room for future progress. For NH3 the protocol allows Nordic countries a small increase in emissions due to Sweden and Norway. The multi-pollutant multi-effect framework offers the possibility to balance reduction efforts with costs and impacts, as derived from cost-effectiveness analysis guided by the RAINS model.

  • Energy consumption in ‘energy industries’, ‘manufacturing and construction’, and ‘transport’ is the most significant source of the emission of SO2, NOX, and NMVOC. For Denmark these sectors constitute 80 %, 94 %, and 38 % of the total emission of SO2, NOX, and NMVOC in 2006. For Finland these sectors constitute 73 %, 88 %, and 39 % of the total emission of SO2, NOX, and NMVOC in 2006. For Sweden these sectors constitute 59 %, 89 %, and 45 % of the total emission of SO2, NOX, and NMVOC in 2006. Therefore, projections of energy consumption and the associated emissions are important for the validity of the overall projections. For Denmark, Finland and Sweden a short description of the energy projections is presented below.