International cooperation and EU affairs

Gaseous and particulate air pollutants may spread to the neighbouring regions and even to the other side of the globe. As a considerable proportion of the fine particulate matter and airborne acidifying and eutrophying pollutants in Finland are long-range transported pollution, international collaboration as well as national measures are required if we are to achieve the objectives of air pollution control policies.

The most important agreement concerning air pollution control is the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution concluded to control the transport of air pollutants between countries and the protocols supplementing the Convention.

In addition to international agreements, efforts are made within the European Union to reduce exposure to air pollution through EU legislation (EU directives and regulations) and by taking national measures.

UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution

Finland is party to the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution concluded in 1979. The Convention includes principles and provisions concerning the reduction and monitoring of air pollution, research and development work, and exchange of information.

It does not include actual emission reduction commitments but creates a framework for collaboration and for separately approved detailed protocols, in which emission reduction commitments are included.

National limits were set to the emissions of sulphur, nitrogen oxides, ammonia and volatile organic compounds in the so-called Gothenburg Protocol (Finnish Treaty Series 40/2005) in 1999. With an amendment to the Protocol (Finnish Treaty Series 95/2013) in 2012, the parties agreed on new reduction commitments concerning sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, ammonia and fine particulate matter starting from 2020. The objective of the Protocol is to effectively reduce acidification, eutrophication and the formation of ground-level ozone. The commitments of the National Emission Ceilings Directive for the year 2020 correspond to these emission reduction commitments.

The Protocol on Heavy Metals (Finnish Treaty Series 78/2003, amendment 96/2013) presents commitments to reduce the emissions of cadmium, lead and mercury. The scope of application of the Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants (Finnish Treaty Series 68/2003, amendment 37/2015) comprises 16 different compounds, the use of which is prohibited or restricted. In the amendment to the Protocol, seven new substances were added to the restrictions.

Finland reports the data on air pollutant emissions to the Secretariat of the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution.

Air pollution control legislation in the European Union

The measures taken by the European Union to prevent the harmful effects of air pollution on human health and the environment are based on the action plan “Clean Air for Europe” (CAFE), updated in 2013. The action plan defines shared air quality targets for the EU, such as cutting the harmful effects of air pollution on health by half, and explores cost-effective solutions to the most important problems in air pollution control. The objectives are pursued through the full implementation of EU laws. In addition to the regulation concerning emission sources and the monitoring of air quality, decisions made in the climate, energy, transport and agricultural sectors and their effect on the quality of the living environment play an increasingly significant role in air quality and exposure to air pollution. At the national level, the EU’s air pollution control obligations have mainly been implemented by the Environmental Protection Act (527/2014) and government decrees.

Directives on emissions

Air quality

An EU directive on air quality (2008/50/EC) was adopted in 2008 and it entered into force in Finland in 2011. It sets limit values for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particles, lead, carbon monoxide and benzene and target values for ground-level ozone. The concentrations of cadmium, arsenic, nickel and benzo(a)pyrene (one of the PAHs) in ambient air are regulated by a directive (2004/107/EC) that was adopted in 2004 and entered into force in 2007.

Other EU laws

Other EU laws concerning air pollution control include the directives related to the emissions from engines, specifications for petrol and fuel oil, VOC emissions from paints and adhesives, and nitrate emissions from agriculture.

More information

Oili Rahnasto, Senior Ministerial Adviser 
Ministry of the Environment, Environmental Protection Department, Päästöt ja ympäristöriskit 0295250244  

Air quality

Tarja Lahtinen, Ministerial Adviser 
Ministry of the Environment, Environmental Protection Department, Päästöt ja ympäristöriskit 0295250149  

Combustion plants

Sami Rinne, Ministerial Adviser 
Ministry of the Environment, Environmental Protection Department, Päästöt ja ympäristöriskit 0295250361