Reducing air pollution sources in Greece – status and trends (OECD).

1. Reducing air pollution from ships – emissions control measures in Greece.

Maritime shipping is an important contributor to air pollution in Europe, particularly in port cities. While current regulations of the International Maritime Organization and the EU will cut SO2 emissions from international shipping up to 2030, without further controls they will grow again after 2030 and NOXemissions will exceed those from land-based sources in the EU.

Designating the Mediterranean Sea as an Emission Control Area (with stricter controls on emissions from ships, as in the Baltic and North seas) could cut emissions of SO2 from international shipping by 80% and of NOX by 20% by 2030, compared to the situation with current legislation.

The main emission control measures include reduction of the sulphur content of marine fuels, combustion process optimisation, exhaust gas cleaning and catalytic reduction systems. Connecting ships at berth to onshore power supply (cold ironing) can also help reduce NOX and PM emissions. In 2018, the port of Killini was the first cold ironing pilot in the eastern Mediterranean. An EU-funded project called ELEMED (for ELectrification of the Eastern MEDiterranean), involves two ports in Greece (Killini and Piraeus) and one each in Cyprus (Limassol) and Slovenia (Koper). It paves the way for wider implementation in Greece and elsewhere in the region [1].

Elemed project prepared the ground for the introduction of cold ironing, electric bunkering and hybrid ships across the Eastern Mediterranean Sea corridor. It involved three EU member states -Cyprus, Greece and Slovenia- forming a strong consortium, comprised by a team of experts, from the marine, engineering and academic sector. The project aims at studying all technical, regulatory, safety and financial issues related to the shore produced electricity and electric propulsion for vessels in Eastern Mediterranean region [4]. Through the scientific ELEMED project the port of Killini became the first port in the Eastern Mediterranean installing ship-to-shore power interconnection-also known as “cold ironing”, a technological approach which is accompanied by mitigation of the air pollution around the port area. For these purposes two cold ironing positions have been already constructed -4 are projected and 1 e-bunkering station-, serving the ferries connecting Killini with the Islands of Zakynthos and Kefallinia [5].

2. Greece: land based Air emissions

Since 2009, emissions of major air pollutants have decreased faster than economic activity except in the case of ammonia (NH3) (Figure 1.1). The reduction in energy consumption, abatement measures such as flue gas desulphurisation, changes in the electricity mix (increased use of gas and renewables, decommissioning of old coal power plants), reduction of fuels’ sulphur content and the scrapping of old vehicles have been the main drivers of this decline. However, levels of emission intensity per unit of GDP remain high, mainly due to oil-based transport. Passenger cars are the main mobile source of emissions of non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), while heavy duty vehicles and ships dominate NOX and PM2.5 emissions from transport. In 2010, air emissions were below the ceilings imposed by the NEC Directive except in the case of NOX. According to national projections, Greece is on track to meet its 2020 and 2030 emission reduction commitments

Figure 1.1 Most air emissions decreased faster than economic activity the past decade. (OECD)

Figure 1.8. Most air emissions decreased faster than economic activity

Greece’s air management policy is shaped by the 2013 Clean Air Programme for Europe. The country fell behind in developing its national air pollution control programme to ensure that it met the reduction commitments for 2020 and 2030 set in the NEC Directive. Greece established a transitional national plan giving some power plants more time to comply with the Industrial Emissions Directive (2010/75/EU). [1]

The Greek population is severely affected by air pollution. Athens and Thessaloniki are among the top 20% of most polluted metropolitan areas in OECD countries. Since the beginning of the decade, despite decreasing mean exposure to small particulates, the number of premature deaths attributable to ambient air pollution by PM2.5 and ozone have remained broadly constant, aside from weather-related variations (Figure 1.2). Using the value of a statistical life techniques, the welfare cost of the estimated 7 000 premature deaths was estimated at 6.7% of GDP in 2017, nearly twice the OECD average. Natural sources, such as Saharan dust, are a significant factor for particulate pollution, especially in southern Greece. Improving the air quality monitoring system would help in increasing the accuracy of exposure estimates and designing appropriate measures to reduce the health impact of air pollution (Klein et al., 2019) [3]

In the past decade, concentrations of the main air pollutants have decreased with reduced economic and transport activity, scrapping of old vehicles and increased use of natural gas. However, higher heating oil prices have pushed households to switch from oil to wood for heating, causing severe winter episodes of PM pollution (Athanasopoulou, 2017) [2].

Progress in reducing urban air pollution has stalled since fuel consumption started to grow again in 2013. Concentrations of NO2, PM10, PM2.5 and benzene have stabilised or increased at some monitoring stations. In 2017, exceedances of EU air quality standards were recorded for NO2, PM10, benzene and benzo[a]pyrene. The European Commission has opened infringement procedures against Greece for not complying with limit values for PM10 and NO2 and for failure to put in place adequate air quality monitoring in Thessaloniki.

Like other Mediterranean countries, Greece regularly records high levels of ozone concentrations, which are exacerbated in Athens by topography (basin surrounded by mountains) and meteorological conditions (temperature inversions, low wind speed, high temperature). In 2017, the EU target value of ozone concentrations was not met in many Greek locations.

Recommendations on air quality management (OECD).

  • Swiftly adopt and implement the national air pollution control programme to comply with standards for protection of human health; further promote replacement of inefficient oil and biomass heating systems.
  • Further improve the air quality monitoring system and develop knowledge of the drivers of air pollution and its impact on health.


[1] OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Greece 2020 :

[2] Athanasopoulou, E. (2017), “Changes in domestic heating fuel use in Greece: effects on atmospheric chemistry and radiation”, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, Vol. 17, pp. 10597-618,

[3] Klein, K. et al. (2019), Transboundary air pollution by main pollutants (S, N, O3) and PM in 2017, Greece, MSC-W Data Note 1/2019, Norwegian Meteorological Institute (EMEP/MSC-W), Oslo,

[4] the elemed project link :

[5] Conference paper:

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