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  • Cited by 26
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: May 2011

22 - Costs and benefits of nitrogen in the environment

from Part V - European nitrogen policies and future challenges


Executive summary

Nature of the problem

Single issue policies have been an effective means of reducing reactive nitrogen (Nr) emissions in the EU, but to make further reductions more-integrated approaches are required.


This chapter shows how cost–benefit analysis (CBA) can provide guidance for the setting of new policy priorities for the abatement of the European Nr emissions from an integrated perspective.

Data on costs and benefits of Nr-abatement, including four national and regional case studies, are reviewed and made comparable by expression in euro per kg of added Nr (agriculture) or euro per kg of reduced Nr emission (unit cost approach).

Social cost estimates are based on Willingness to Pay (WTP) for human life or health, for ecosystem services and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction.

Key findings

The total annual Nr-related damage in EU27 ranges between 70 and 320 billion Euro, equivalent to 150–750 euro/capita, of which about 75% is related to health damage and air pollution. This damage cost constitutes 1%–4% of the average European income.

Inferred social costs of health impacts from NOx are highest (10–30 euro per kg of pollutant-Nr emission). Health costs from secondary ammonium particles (2–20 euro/kg N), from GHG balance effects of N2O (5–15 euro/kg N), from ecosystem impacts via N-runoff (5–20 euro/kg N) and by N-deposition (2–10 euro/kg N) are intermediate. Costs of health impacts from NO3 in drinking water (0–4 euro/kg N) and by N2O via stratospheric ozone depletion (1–3 euro/kg N) are estimated to be low.


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