The principal legal instrument through which the European Union implements its policies related to Air Quality is Directive 2008/50/EC of the European Parliament and of the council of the 21 May 2008 on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe together with Directive 2004/107/EC of the European Parliament and of  the council of 15 December 2004 relating to arsenic, cadmium, mercury,nickel and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in ambient air.  Both these Directives were transposed into Maltese Law through the Ambient Air Quality Regulations (S.L. 549.59) , which:

  • Set a general policy framework for dealing with ambient air quality.
  • Oblige Malta to put in place systems for assessing ambient air quality based upon common methods and criteria.
  • Oblige Malta to maintain ambient air quality where it is good and improve it in other cases, by means of plans and programs of action.
  • Lay down provisions for a system of gathering, reporting and publicizing information.  This includes both data reported to the Commission and information to the public.
  • Set limit values for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, benzene, ozone, particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) and lead, which are not to be exceeded throughout the Maltese Islands.
  • Set target values for arsenic, cadmium, nickel and poly aromatics expressed as benzo[a]pyrene, which are to be, as far as is reasonably possible, complied with.The following are the standards which Malta (together with the other EU Member States) is obliged to comply with.

The following are the standards which Malta (together with the other EU Member States) is obliged to comply with;

PollutantConcentrationAveraging periodPermitted exceedances each year
Fine particles (PM2.5)25 µg/m31 yearn/a
Sulphur dioxide (SO2)350 µg/m31 hour24
125 µg/m3
24 hours
3
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)200 µg/m31 hour
18
40 µg/m31 year
n/a
PM1050 µg/m324 hours
35
40 µg/m31 year
n/a
Lead (Pb)0.5 µg/m31 year
n/a
Carbon monoxide (CO)10 mg/m3Maximum daily 8 hour mean
n/a
Benzene5 µg/m31 year
n/a
Ozone120 µg/m3Maximum daily 8 hour mean
Arsenic (As)6 ng/m31 year
n/a
Cadmium (Cd)5 ng/m31 year
n/a
Nickel (Ni)20 ng/m31 year
n/a
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons1 ng/m3 (expressed as concentration of Benzo(a)pyrene)1 year
n/a

National Emissions Ceilings

The Directive on the reduction of national emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants (Directive (EU) 2016/2284), better known as the NEC Directive, together with the various source specific legislative instruments (such as the Industrial Emissions Directive (Directive 2010/75/EU) or the Directives setting Vehicle Emissions Standards) make possible the achievement of the standards above.   The NEC Directive sets the maximum amounts (in kilotonnes) of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia, non-methane volatile organic compounds, and PM2.5 which, can be emitted by each Member State. The Directive on the reduction of national emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants Directive was transposed into Maltese Law through the Limitation of Emissions of Certain Atmospheric Pollutants Regulations, (S.L. 549.124) and obliges Malta to achieve the following emission reductions over 2005 by 2020, 2025 and 2030.

Compliance Year NOxSO2NH3NMVOCPM2.5
2020-42%-77%-4%-23%-25%
2025-60%-86%-14%-25%-38%
2030-79%-95%-24%-27%-50%

Emission Limits for 2020, 2025 and 2030

Regulation 4 of the Limitation of Emissions of Certain Atmospheric Pollutants Regulations, (S.L. 549.124) , obliges ERA to publish on its website the emission limits in tonnes equivalent to the respective emission reductions in sub-regulations 2,3 and 4 of regulation 4, see the tables below:

 Table 1: Emission Limits to be complied with by 2020

PollutantEmission Reductions in Article 4(2), SL 549.124Emission Levels in 20052020 Emission Limits
(%)(tonnes)(tonnes)
SO277110002530
NOx4293005394
NMVOC2333002541
NH341600

1536
PM2.5251300

975

Table 2: Indicative Emission Limits to be achieved by 2025

PollutantEmission Reductions in Article 4(3), SL 549.124Emission Levels in 20052025 Emission Limits
(%)(tonnes)(tonnes)

SO286113701592
NOx6095603824
NMVOC2539202940*
NH31417101471
PM2.538710440

​*This is higher than the emission limit for 2020 due to fact that the 2005 baseline as recalculated by TSAP 16 and which was used in the setting of the 2030  reduction commitments was higher than that used in the setting of the LRTAP reduction commitments for 2020 by 19%.

Table 3: Emission Limits to be complied with by 2030
PollutantEmission Reductions in Article 4(4), SL 549.124Emission Levels in 20052030 Emission Limits
(%)(tonnes)(tonnes)
SO29511370569
NOx7995602008
NMVOC2739202862
NH32417101300
PM2.550710355

Compliance with these ceilings is assessed through the Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (prepared by the Member States every year) and the projections (prepared by the Member States every two years), which are accompanied by the Informative Inventory Report. The time series for the emission of atmospheric pollutants by the EU Member States can be viewed on this webpage​. In addition, ERA reports the spatially disaggregated national emission inventories and large point source inventories, as required under the NEC Directive.

The National Air Pollution Control Programme for Malta outlines the measures selected for adoption in the coming years with a view to meet the above-mentioned emission reduction commitments.

The NEC Directive also requires monitoring of the impacts of air pollution upon ecosystems. To assess such impact, the network of the monitoring sites and the associated indicators used for monitoring air pollution is first designated, followed by the reporting of the monitoring of air pollution impacts.

Multilateral Environmental Agreements

The NEC Directive implements the European Union’s obligations under a multilateral environment agreement known as the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution. The main aim of this agreement is to combat acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone as well as, to limit and, as far as possible, gradually reduce and prevent air pollution including long-range trans-boundary air pollution.