Industrial installations and air quality: Two reports on the costs of pollution in Europe

In 2019 and 2020, the Institute coordinated two research studies into the costs associated with atmospheric pollution from industrial facilities in Europe. The reports have just been published.

These studies were carried out as part of the work performed by the National Institute for Industrial Environment and Risks, for the Thematic Centre on Air, Noise and Transport Pollution (ETC/ATNI) of the European Environmental Agency (EEA).
The first report (ETC/ATNI Report 18/2019: Development of a refined methodology for the EEA externalities assessment) provides an overview of the methods used to calculate the cost of damage caused by polluting emissions from industrial facilities in Europe, per ton and by country.    
The study covers all of the stages of the Impact Pathway Approach (IPA), from emissions up to the quantifying and assessing of their impact on health and the environment, by demonstrating and taking into account uncertainties.
The report makes recommendations about the scope of the analysis (in terms of pollutants, impacts, countries and years to be covered), modelling atmospheric dispersion for a range of pollutants, calculating sectoral adjustment factors, and assessing costs.
The second report (ETC/ATNI Report 04/2020: Costs of air pollution from European industrial facilities 2008–2017) updates two assessments* from the European Environmental Agency, dating from 2011 and 2014.
For the period from 2008 to 2017, it assesses the damage to health and the environment from atmospheric pollutant emissions coming from industrial facilities which have been officially declared to the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR).
The marginal cost of damages (cost of damage per ton of pollutant emitted) is calculated for a range of atmospheric pollutants (PM2.5, PM10, SO2, NH3, NOx, COVNM, As, Cd, CrVI, Pb, Hg, Ni, 1.3 butadiene, benzine, formaldehyde, benzo(a)pyrene, dioxins and furans) and of greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4 and N2O), for countries in the European Economic Area (EEA38 + United Kingdom).


ETC/ATNI Report 18/2019: Development of a refined methodology for the EEA externalities assessment

In 2011 and 2014, the European Environmental Agency published two reports which assess the cost of atmospheric pollution emitted by industrial facilities in Europe. There are two stages to these assessments:
- a calculation of the cost of damage caused by pollutant emissions, per ton and by country
- an assessment of external costs of industrial facilities, by multiplying their emissions by the cost of damages by ton of pollutant.
The 2019 report examines the methods used in 2014 in order to update these assessments.
This examination has led to several recommendations:
- relating to pollutant emissions reported to the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (extending the assessment to two greenhouse gases: methane and nitrous oxide);
- as regards atmospheric dispersion, the transformation of the principal atmospheric pollutants, and calculating the transfer relationships between sources and receptor areas(1), using the results of the most recent simulations by the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP) of the UN Convention on long-distance transportation of pollutants for PM2.5s and ozone, and the work carried out by the European Union’s Common Research Centre, with the SHERPA model for NO2 (the health-related effects of NO2 were not taken onboard in previous studies);
- to include more health impacts for heavy metals and organic pollutants (for example, mortality) and to update the cost in order to assess mortality;
- to include an analysis on the impact of deposits of NH3 and NO2 on biodiversity (exceeding of critical loads of eutrophysing pollutants in the Natura 2000 area).

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Authors: Simone Schucht, Elsa Real, Mike Holland, Lucy Garland, Mark Gibbs, Augustin Colette


ETC/ATNI Report 04/2020: Costs of air pollution from European industrial facilities 2008–2017

The calculated marginal damage cost dataset covers impacts on health, agriculture and forests, building materials and ecosystems. It differs to the dataset in the EEA report (2014) due to the amendments made:
- to the source-receptor matrices;   
- to the year of reference for the prices used;
- to the updating of unit values used to monetise mortality;
- and the inclusion of additional health impacts (specifically mortality due to heavy metals and organic pollutants).
This is the first time that a complete set of sectorial adjustment factors has been calculated for exposure to PM2.5s and NO2 for each country and business sector, making it possible to take into account the differences in emission dispersion and distance to the population among different emission sources(2).
The study estimates that the aggregate cost of the damages, caused by the industrial emissions declared by industrial entities to E-PRTR, has reduced between 2008 and 2017, by:
- 54 % for the main atmospheric pollutants;
- 19 % for greenhouse gases;
- 43 % for heavy metals;
- 60 % for organic pollutants.
A limited number of facilities are the originators of the majority of the damage. For example, in 2017, 1.8 % of facilities that declared their emissions represented 50% of the estimated damage for the main atmospheric pollutants and greenhouse gases.
It should be noted that the estimated damages in this report remain lower than the total damages caused by the total emissions of the countries studied, as all entities are not obligated to declare their emissions to E-PRTR.
The cost of damages caused by industrial facilities are also shown by individual pollutant, by country and by sector. The classification of countries by absolute damage, produced by ETC/ATNI, is affected by the number of industrial sites located there and by the level of output. This can skew the analysis in terms of reduction of industrial emissions for a country that has a large number of sites, or has large-scale sites. To counter this bias, we have weighted the costs of damage by the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in order to represent the country’s industrial output. This is an imperfect proxy, but it makes it possible to achieve a different ranking of countries, and thereby demonstrates the sensitivity of the conclusions that can be drawn from the study.

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Authors: Simone Schucht, Elsa Real, Laurent Létinois, Augustin Colette, Mike Holland, Joseph V. Spadaro, Laurence Opie, Rosie Brook, Lucy Garland, Mark Gibbs


(1) The source-receptor matrices produced by the EMEP model, and used here, show the effects on the concentrations and deposits of a given pollutant per grid cell, in each receptor country, of a change in the emissions of a precursor pollutant in a given emitting country. These matrices are calculated for each precursor pollutant and for each emitting country.  
(2) Up until now the work of the Topic Centre on facility externalities has been limited to the industrial sector. In 2021, this was opened up to other sectors.

 *EEA, 2011, Revealing the costs of air pollution from industrial facilities in Europe, EEA Technical Report 15/2011, European Environment Agency, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.
EEA, 2014, Costs of air pollution from European industrial facilities 2008–2012—an updated assessment, EEA Technical Report 20/2014, European Environment Agency, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.