Europe proposes pollution clampdown for industry, livestock farms

European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium August 21, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

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BRUSSELS, April 5 (Reuters) – Europe’s factories and mines would face tougher pollution limits to secure permits to operate under rules proposed by the European Commission on Tuesday that would also limit planet-warming emissions from livestock farms.

Industrial pollution that degrades nature and harms human health is costing Europe billions of euros in damage each year, by the European Union’s own estimates.

Brussels on Tuesday proposed an upgrade of EU rules covering pollution from 30,000 industrial facilities, including power plants, waste incineration sites, landfills and cement factories, plus 20,000 livestock farms.

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The rules oblige countries to only grant permits to facilities that meet standards on waste disposal, and emission limits for polluting gases such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

Governments have tended to enforce the weakest limits, and 80% of industrial facilities’ permits use the least ambitious pollution caps allowed under the rules. The new proposal requires authorities to enforce the “strictest possible emission limit values”.

It also adds cattle farming to the regulation for the first time, while more pig and poultry farms would be included – meaning 43% of EU livestock emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane would be covered.

In addition, Europe’s roughly 850 sites for extracting industrial minerals – including nickel and lithium – would be added, plus large-scale battery factories, of which the EU hopes to build dozens to meet demand for electric vehicles.

Environmental law firm ClientEarth criticizing the proposal for not setting a firm cap on total emissions from industries, as is done under the EU carbon market, the bloc’s main tool for cutting CO2 emissions from power plants and industry.

The rules need to be negotiated by EU countries and the European Parliament, and would likely not apply to new sectors until 2027.

Operators whose installations breach the rules could face fines and have their permits suspended. Governments will also be obliged to ensure citizens can claim compensation for damages they suffer from breaches.

A separate EU proposal would phase out faster the fluorinated greenhouse gases found in fridges, air conditioning units and aerosols, the most long-lasting type of planet-warming emissions.

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Reporting by Kate Abnett; editing by Barbara Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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