Council reaches agreement on amendments to industrial emissions directive

The Council adopted its negotiating position ('general approach') on a proposal to review the industrial emissions directive.

The new rules will offer better protection of human health and the environment by reducing harmful emissions from industrial installations and intensive livestock farms into the air, water and through waste discharges.

Romina Pourmokhtari, Swedish minister for climate and the environment

Pollution causes serious diseases and damages the environment. The EU’s goal for 2050 is to bring pollution down to levels no longer harmful to human health. The Council agreement reached today on industrial emissions sets stronger rules to tackle pollution at the source. This will set pollution limits at more effective levels and give clear guidance to the industry and large livestock farms to make the right investments so that their pollution is effectively reduced.

Romina Pourmokhtari, Swedish minister for climate and the environment

The industrial emissions directive is the main EU instrument regulating pollution from industrial installations and intensive livestock farms, such as nitrogen oxide, ammonia, mercury, methane and carbon dioxide. Industrial-scale installations and farms are required to operate in accordance with a permit, granted by national authorities, using Best Available Techniques (BAT) as a standard.

Main changes introduced by the Council

In their general approach, member states amended the Commission’s proposal to extend the scope of the directive to intensive livestock farms with higher Live Stock Unit (LSU) numbers than 350 LSU for cattle and pigs, 280 LSU for poultry and 350 LSU for mixed farms. Extensive farms would be excluded. The new rules would be applied progressively starting with the largest farms.

Member states agreed to add mining activities into the scope of the directive. They introduced a threshold of 500 tonnes of production capacity per day for non-energy minerals and ores produced on an industrial scale. Member States excluded gypsum from the scope of the directive and included a threshold for hydrogen produced through electrolysing of water.

The general approach introduced the flexibility needed for member states to adapt the provisions on penalties and compensations in case of health damages to their different national legal systems.

Member states introduced a derogation from the emission limit values associated with best available techniques in the event of a crisis leading to severe disruption or shortage of supply of energy or essential resources, material or equipment – under strict conditions.

The general approach includes a derogation limited in time for combustion plants that are part of a small isolated system, not interconnected to the mainland energy grid. The aim is to give them enough time to establish interconnecting grids, in order to ensure energy security.

The general approach specifies the objectives for the innovation centre for industrial transformation and emissions (INCITE) proposed by the Commission. It also clarifies many other parts of the proposal and strives to reduce administrative burden for operators and national authorities.

Infographic - Trends in EU industrial emissions

Chart about downward trend in pollution from industries.See full infographic

Next steps

Now that the Council has reached a general approach, negotiations with the European Parliament may begin as soon as the latter has adopted its negotiating position.


Industrial installations - such as electricity and cement production, waste management, waste incineration and the intensive rearing of livestock - whose activities are listed in the directive are required to operate in accordance with a permit, granted by national authorities. The permit sets emission limit values for polluting substances emitted by the plants. The permits cover emissions to air, water and land, waste generation, use of raw materials, energy efficiency, noise, prevention of environmental accidents, and restoration of the site upon closure. The emission limit values are based on the best available techniques (BAT) to restrict emissions.

Live Stock Unit (LSU)  is a reference unit that uses coefficients based on feed requirements for different types of animals and is usually larger than the number of animals on a given farm.

The main objective of the revision is to make progress towards the EU’s zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment.

The new rules will:

  • bring more installations under its scope (notably more large-scale intensive livestock farms)
  • make permitting more effective
  • reduce administrative costs
  • increase transparency and
  • give more support to breakthrough technologies and other innovative approaches