EU 'disconnected from public interests' in latest decision on the Industrial Emissions Directive

The EU's latest revision of crucial environmental legislation disappoints environmentalists, maintaining the status quo and delaying crucial climate action.

In brief:
  • The EU's final agreement on the Industrial Emissions Directive falls short of Green Deal promises, continuing protection for industrial polluters.

  • Exclusion of cattle farms and delayed action on pig and poultry farming leave significant environmental impacts unaddressed.

  • Despite introducing a compensation right for illegal pollution victims, the directive weakens health protection and delays climate action beyond 2028.

In detail:

The European Union's recent final agreement on the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) has sparked frustration among environmentalists and health advocates.

The revised directive, crucial in regulating the environmental and health impacts of Europe's most polluting industrial activities, is seen by experts at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) as a missed opportunity to progress towards the EU's zero pollution, climate neutrality, and circular economy goals.

A significant setback in the final IED agreement is the exclusion of industrial cattle farms, a major source of pollution in Europe. The directive only offers a future revision clause to address this issue.

Additionally, the new IED regresses on rules for pigs and poultry industrial farming, excluding essential elements like permit and reporting systems. This delay in implementing concrete measures for ammonia and methane abatement and proper manure management leaves the environment and public health vulnerable until after 2030.

Christian Schaible, Head of Zero Pollution Industry at the EEB, criticised the decision, highlighting that it perpetuates business as usual for the next decade. “This is a bitter example of how EU decision-makers are disconnected from public interests and unwilling to translate the EU Green Deal into clear rules.”

The EU's approach to health protection also fell short of expectations according to the EEB. While introducing a new compensation right for illegal pollution victims, the directive fails to adequately protect citizens, particularly those suffering from serious health conditions.

The right's effectiveness is further weakened by excluding civil society organisations from representing vulnerable victims in complex legal proceedings.

ClientEarth senior legal expert, Bellinda Bartolucci, pointed out  shortcomings in the new IED compensation right: “The IED compensation right is the first signal in EU environmental legislation calling for justice for people made sick by illegal pollution. But shockingly, protection of people’s health seems to have become collateral damage in the political negotiations.”

On climate action, the directive delays the integration of greenhouse gas emissions reduction and climate change mitigation until future reviews. 

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe steel transformation policy coordinator, Boris Jankowiak, lamented the failure to address critical areas like climate, resources, and pollution in the revised directive.

He said: “The EU’s delay in transforming the long-standing assets of its most polluting industries has cost us valuable time, jeopardising the objectives of the Green Deal.”

The agreement allows for a maximum 12-year transition period to adapt to lower pollution limits, effectively maintaining lenient emission limits and business as usual until at least 2036.

The directive introduces an electronic permit system to enable public participation and access to information. However, it continues to exclude civil society organisations from accessing 'confidential business information', undermining public accountability.

The provisional political deal between the EU co-legislators is pending formal adoption.