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  • Cited by 18
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: May 2011

4 - Nitrogen in current European policies

from Part I - Nitrogen in Europe: the present position


Executive summary

Nature of the problem

Europe, and especially the European Union (EU), has many governmental policy measures aimed at decreasing unwanted reactive nitrogen (Nr) emissions from combustion, agriculture and urban wastes. Many of these policy measures have an ‘effects-based approach’, and focus on single Nr compounds, single sectors and either on air or waters.

This chapter addresses the origin, objectives and targets of EU policy measures related to Nr emissions, considers which instruments are being used to implement the policies and briefly discusses the effects of the policy measures.


The chapter starts with a brief description of the basic elements of governmental policy measures.

A review of the main international conventions and EU policies related to emissions of Nr to air and water is then provided.

Finally the chapter provides a semi-quantitative assessment of the effectiveness and efficiency of European policy measures.

Key findings/state of knowledge

International conventions and other treaties have played a key role in raising awareness and establishing policy measures for Nr emissions abatement in EU through so-called Directives and Regulations.

There are many different EU Directives, often addressing individual Nr compounds from individual sectors (e.g. NOx emissions from combustion; NH3 emissions from agriculture, pollution of groundwater and surface water by nitrates from agriculture, discharge of total nitrogen from urban sewage to surface waters).


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