Sustainable development in Germany - 17 Goals to Transform our World

Air pollution – Keeping the environment healthy

Indicator 3.2.a: Emissions of air pollutants

(Evaluation of the year 2018 as reporting year from indicator report 2021)


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This overview includes additional information on the indicators presented above, such as a brief definition of the indicator and a description of the politically determined target value, as well as the political intention for selecting the indicator.

Definition of indicators (Taken from the official translation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy)

The indicator constitutes the mean value of the indices of national emissions of the five air pollutants sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), ammonia (NH3), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) and particulate matter (PM2.5).

Target and intention of the German Government (Taken from the official translation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy)

Air pollutants impair not only human health but also ecosystems and biodiversity. The aim for 2030 is therefore to reduce the volume of air pollutants by 45% of their 2005 level. To make it possible to portray the development of pressure on both health and the ecosystem, German emissions of SO2, NOx, NH3, NMVOCs and PM2.5 have been combined into a single indicator.

Data state

The data published in the indicator report 2021 is as of 31.12.2020. The data shown on the DNS-Online-Platform is updated regularly, so that more current data may be available online than published in the indicator report 2021.

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Last modification of code (text) 2021-09-10: see changes on GitHub opens in a new window

Taken from the official translation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy

Germany has made a commitment to the European Union to reduce emissions of air pollutants by 2030 as follows: Sulphur dioxide by 58%, nitrogen oxides by 65%, ammonia by 29%, volatile organic compounds by 28% and particulate matter by 43%. On this basis, the Federal Environment Agency calculated a non-weighted, arithmetic mean of the individual reductions in the specified air pollutants as a target. The rates of change in the individual air pollutants are offset equally against one another. Notwithstanding the separate reduction targets, this means that increasing emissions of individual pollutants covered by this indicator may be offset by higher reductions in the emissions of other pollutants.

The data are computed annually by the Federal Environment Agency from various sources. They serve as a basis for the reporting obligation under the Geneva Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) and the National Emission Ceilings (NEC) Directive. The data undergo further analysis as part of the environmental economic accounting performed by the Federal Statistical Office. The emissions, for instance, are broken down by origin into various branches of economic activity and private households.

Overall emissions of air pollutants fell by 24.7% from 2005 to 2018. The indicator has thus moved in the desired direction, and the target for 2030 will be achieved if the trend is maintained. Emissions of individual pollutants changed to varying degrees, however, in the period from 2005 to 2018.

Emissions of non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC)s, which are primarily due to the industrial use of solvents, were reduced by a significant 24.6% during that period. This means that the targeted reduction of 28% by 2030 is achievable.

Emissions of particulate matter (PM2.5) fell by 31.5% in the aforesaid period. If the annual average trend were maintained, the set reduction target would be achieved for these emissions too. The largest source of particulate emissions in 2018 was industry, which accounted for 29.3% of the total. Households and small-scale consumers discharged 24.1%, chiefly from heating systems. Transport accounted for 25.5% of particulate emissions, which was 10.6 percentage points down on 2005.

Emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOxx) fell by 27.0% from 2005 to 2018 and so are heading in the desired direction. The average reduction of the past few years, however, would not suffice to meet the target. The majority of nitrogen oxides emitted in 2018 came from transport and the energy industry.

Emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2), which are mainly discharged by the energy industry, fell by 39.5% in the reference period. This trend has moved in the right direction. The average reduction of the past few years would be sufficient to meet the target.

Emissions of ammonia (NH3) declined by 0.8% from 2005 to 2018 and remain persistently high. This stagnation is mainly due to the spreading of fermentation residues from fuel crops. According to calculations by the Federal Environment Agency, 95.3% of all national ammonia emissions in 2018 originated from agricultural production, particularly livestock farming.

This summary table illustrates the evaluations of the indicator by status of previous years. This shows whether the weather symbol for an indicator has been stable or rather volatile in the past years. (Evaluations from the indicator report 2021)


3.2.a Emissions of air pollutants


Reduction of emissions to 55% of 2005 level (unweighted average of the five pollutants) by 2030






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 German Environment Agency


German Environment Agency

Data source Index of air pollutant emissions opens in a new window