What’s changing in the Industrial Emissions Directive

As the EU plans to tighten the Industrial Emissions Directive rules to reach zero pollution, you’ll need to start preparing your facilities for these 5 upcoming changes.

Beatriz Garcia Fernandez

by Beatriz García Fernandez-Viagas

The Industrial Emissions Directive (or IED), the key legislation addressing air and water pollution from industrial installations in the European Union, needs radical change. This is the view of the European Commission, which recently submitted a proposal to revise the IED rules to the EU co-legislators in order to support the green transition and ensure a high level of protection. Here’s a summary of the 5 main novelties proposed and how to stay ahead.

Note to readers: The revised IED is still under discussion and has not been adopted yet. Both the EP and the Council proposed amendments to the proposal from the Commission, but since they did not reach an agreement, they have started trilogue negotiations. We’ll continue to update this resource as we have more information.

1. Covering more sectors

To reach the climate neutrality objective by 2050, the European Commission has proposed to extend the current Industrial Emissions Directive rules to additional installations with high environmental pollution potential, such as: 

  • extractive industry installations (extracting metals and industrial minerals) 
  • large installations manufacturing batteries (the so-called ‘battery giga-factories’) 
  • larger-scale cattle farming and additional pig and poultry farms. 

This means that companies involved in any of the above sectors would have to comply as from 2027 with the new tailored requirements based on the Best Available Techniques (BAT) that would be developed by the European Commission to prevent (or, at least, reduce) the greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impact of their installations.

2. Stricter permitting process

If the Industrial Emissions Directive proposal is adopted, Member States’ competent authorities would have to set out stricter conditions when they grant new (or review existing) IED permits. As a result, operators of industrial installations covered by the directive’s scheme would have more obligations to comply with, including:  

  • comply with new environmental performance limit values 
  • follow tighter emission limits for air pollutants (set at the lowest end of the relevant BAT) 
  • prioritize the use of less toxic chemicals in industrial processes 
  • establish an environmental management system for each IED installation 
  • monitor the consumption and reuse of energy, water, and raw materials 

By attaching more stringent requirements to IED permits, the proposal supports the EU’s zero-pollution target as it would help reduce industrial emissions at source.

3. Strengthened resource efficiency obligations

As we’ve seen above, the proposal introduces for the first time a mandatory environmental management system (EMS) for all Industrial Emissions Directive installations with a view to improving their environmental and energy efficient performance as well as their safety. 

This implies that industrial plants under the IED umbrella would have to implement (and periodically review) an EMS for each of their IED installations in accordance with the relevant BAT conclusions and including, at least: 

  • environmental policy objectives (such as measures to optimize resource and water use)
  • specific performance indicators as well as the results of the energy audit
  • a chemicals inventory of the hazardous substances present in the installation 
  • measures taken to achieve the environmental objectives and avoid risks 
  • a transformation plan for each installation. 

In practice, companies would have to include the above-mentioned transformation plan in their EMS by 30 June 2030, describing how the installation will transform itself during the 2030-2050 period to contribute to the emergence of a sustainable, clean, circular, and climate-neutral economy by 2050. 

In addition, operators of IED installations would be required to ensure that material resources and water are used efficiently (including through re-use) and that the overall life-cycle environmental performance of the supply chain is taken into account.

How to remain compliant with potential IED changes? Plan ahead.

4. A single portal for reporting emissions

To improve public access to environmental data from industrial facilities, the European Commission would develop a new Industrial Emissions Portal that would bring together data on industrial activities reported under the Industrial Emissions Directive and the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR). 

The establishment of a single portal for reporting industrial emissions would actually be beneficial for companies as it would reduce the administrative burden related to reporting at different technical levels in industrial sites.

5. Clarified rules on exemptions

Furthermore, the initiative would clarify the conditions under which derogations from emissions limit values can be granted by competent authorities. For instance, competent authorities would not be allowed to grant derogations from carbon dioxide emission limits if they put at risk compliance with environmental quality standards.

So, when will companies need to take action?

Although the numerous changes put forward by the initiative might seem a bit overwhelming all at once, companies still have a few years to get ready. 

First of all, the proposal is yet to receive the final green light from the European Parliament and the Council, a procedure that could take up to 1 year due to the complex nature of the proposal and its synergies with a parallel proposal to revise the E-PRTR. 

Secondly, EU countries would have a period of 18 months to transpose the directive, once adopted. 

In addition, the Commission would need around 3 years to develop new Best Available Techniques Reference Documents (BREFs) determining sector-specific environmental obligations that, once approved, would have to be implemented by industrial companies.

How to get ahead of the Industrial Emissions Directive changes

Yes there are still a few years before these proposed changes to the Industrial Emissions Directive could be in place. Yet, we know that one of the best ways to remain compliant is to plan ahead. We recommend you start reviewing your processes and spot measures to minimize your emissions further. 

For instance, if you’re planning on applying or reviewing an IED permit in the future – when the proposed changes could be in place – chances are that you’ll have to comply with the lowest legally allowed emission limits set out in the BAT conclusions applicable to your industrial installation. Now is the time to start identifying concrete measures to prevent the generation of waste, optimize water and resource use as well as reduce risks associated with the use of hazardous substances in your facilities, which could be included in your EMS.

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