The Industrial Emissions Directive


Until 2010, the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive (IPPC) was the EU’s main regulatory instrument to tackle harmful emissions into the environment. The IPPC framework was replaced by the new Industrial Emission Directive (IED) on 24 November 2010, strengthening the legislation that implements IPPC and six other directives on industrial emissions (see EEB briefing of 2011 on main changes).  

The Industrial Emissions Directive or IED is the main EU instrument setting environmental standards for large scale industrial activities. The IED aims to achieve a high level of protection of human health and the environment taken as a whole by reducing harmful industrial emissions across the EU, in particular through better application of Best Available Techniques (BAT)1.  

The IED covers the activities of about 55,000 industrial installations (see list in its Annex). The key provisions, stemming from the IPPC-Directive, relate to the BAT concept for permit conditions, inspection and monitoring requirements as well as public participation in decision making, access to information and justice and are in its Chapter II. Alongside those common requirements, the IED sets minimum binding limits for a set of large scale industrial activities. Those minimal requirements stem from the 6 sectoral directives on industrial activities and are commonly known as the “EU Safety net”. Those minimal provisions are set in its Chapters and Annexes: Ch3 / Annex V relates to Large Combustion Plants, ChIV / Annex VI relates to Waste (co)incineration, Ch5 / AnnexVII relates to activities using organic solvents, Ch6 / Annex VIII relates to titanium dioxide production. Those EU safety net provisions set minimal requirements relating to monitoring, emission limit values etc that should not be exceeded but are not based on Best Available Techniques. 

All installations covered by the IED are required to hold a permit issued by national or local responsible authorities. The key principle is set in Article 1, which is to lay down rules designed to prevent or, where that is not practicable, to reduce emissions into the air, water and land and to prevent the generation of waste. The ambition is to deliver a high level of environmental protection of the environment taken as a whole – the so called “integrated approach” to prevent pollution in a coherent manner and not to shift impacts from one media to the other. Permit conditions are to be based on the performance levels achieved with Best Available Techniques (BAT) and contained in a reference document called a ‘BREF’, which shall be the basis for permitting.   

The European Commission started the revision of EU measures addressing pollution from large industrial installations and, as announced in the European Green Deal, a new proposal is expected for Q1 2022. The aims of the revision are to progress towards the EU’s zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment and to support climate, energy and circular economy policies. For this goal to be achieved, a clean industrial transformation is urgently needed

The EEB has been actively involved in all critical steps of the processes so far, communicating the demands of environmental NGOs to policymakers, most notably by providing input to the inception impact assessment (2019) and technical input to the Targeted Stakeholder Surveys (TSS)


What are Best Available Techniques (BAT)? 

Best Available Techniques’ (BAT) are techniques used by each Member State to ensure “a high level of environmental protection“, as required by the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED). As defined in the IED Article 3(10), Best Available Techniques are “designed to prevent and, where that is not practicable, to reduce emissions and the impact on the environment as a whole”, by using the latest available and scalable technologies and considering aspects tied to the configuration and maintenance of the industrial activity. 

The Best Available Techniques to be used in industrial processes are laid out in sector-specific reference documents called “BREFs” (Best Available Techniques Reference Documents). These are elaborated by technical working groups involving representatives from Member States, various industry bodies as well as environmental NGOs. When issuing industrial permits, EU-member states have to consider the Best Available Techniques and BAT Conclusions as listed in the BREF-Ds. 

What are Best Available Techniques Conclusions (BAT-C)? 

BAT-Conclusions are laid out in the IED Article 3(12). These documents contain the parts of a BAT reference document (BREF) laying down conclusions on best available techniques. These include: BAT description, information to assess their applicability, the emission levels associated with the best available techniques, associated monitoring, associated consumption levels and, where appropriate, relevant site remediation measures. Those are binding on the Member States and published in the EU official languages. 

What are BAT-AELs? 

The BATAssociated Emission Levels as mentioned in IED Art 3(13) are the range of emission levels obtained under normal operating conditions using a best available technique or a combination of best available techniques. BAT-AELs are described in BAT conclusions (BAT-C) and expressed as an average over a given period of time, under specified reference conditions. Permit writers should not set emission limits exceeding those ranges.  

What are BAT-AE(P)L? 

These are Best Available Techniques-Associated Environmental Performance Level according to IED Art 3(13) such as abatement efficiency, water use consumption, energy efficiency or other performance levels e.g. substitution of a certain chemical, fuel switch etc. 


The European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR) is an online register providing key environmental data on industrial installations across all European countries. The underlying regulation (EC) No 166/2006 is closely linked to the Industrial Emissions Directive and its parent framework is the UNECE PRTR Protocol of 2003 to the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. The PRTRs aims are multiple: “to enhance public access to information through the establishment of coherent, integrated, nationwide pollutant release and transfer registers (PRTRs) in accordance with the provisions of this Protocol, which could facilitate public participation in environmental decision-making as well as contribute to the prevention and reduction of pollution of the environment.” Whilst the main objective is to prevent and reduce pollution of the environment, it is also considered as a key tool to improve public access to environmental information, allowing for the participation of EU citizens in environmental decision-making on the EU’s largest (agro-)industrial activities.   

As of June 2021, the Industrial Emissions Portal has replaced the former E-PRTR website. The portal covers over 60,000 industrial sites from 65 economic activities across Europe, ranging from energy, to the chemical industry, intensive livestock production and many other sectors.  

Under its current scope (i.e. before the ongoing review tbc by 2022) the E-PRTR covers the following activities as laid out in Annex 1 of the regulation. 

  1. Energy Sector (ex. Thermal power plants >50 MWth, coke ovens, coal rolling mills etc.) 
  1. Production and processing of metals  
  1. Mineral industry (including mining activities) 
  1. Chemical industry 
  1. Waste and wastewater management 
  1. Paper and wood production and processing 
  1. Intensive livestock production and aquaculture 
  1. Animal and vegetable products from the food and beverage sector 
  1. Other activities 

Pollutants covered by the E-PRTR are specified in Annex II and comprise 91 different pollutants. The annex also specifies specific thresholds for releases to air, water and land in kg/year. 

However, the online registry is lacking in the following aspects: 

  • Insufficient integration of environmental quality standards that would allow for benchmarking of individual facilities and their efforts to prevent or reduce pollution 
  • Lack of comparability of permit conditions applied e.g. versus BAT-benchmarks 
  • Lack of contextual information so as to rank by ratio of ‘environmental impact of industrial activity’ versus ‘public good/service provided’. To enable a benchmarking of industrial activities, certain missing information is necessary, such as production outputs and emissions from products (‘diffuse’ emissions). 
  • The data provided is a limited set of pollutants and releases and it is not possible to get a combined visualization of air/water quality 
  • Information is outdated (for most cases monitoring data is older than 3 years and incomplete)  
  • The data is not provided in user-friendly format but progress is on its way. 

In 2021, the E-PRTR is undergoing review. Further information: 

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