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IED: Europe revises its ‘single most important’ piece of environmental legislation

IED: Europe revises its ‘single most important’ piece of environmental legislation

The Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) is EU’s single most important piece of environmental legislation. The purpose of the IED is to ensure a high level of protection for human health and the environment by regulating pollutant emissions into air, water and soil. First enacted in 2010 as a recast of 7 previously existing directives, the IED currently covers more than 50,000 industrial units across Europe. It is now set for revision, with the European Commission adopting a proposal that will extend the scope to new activities while expanding it for some already included.


The activities covered under the existing scope of the IED are vast, ranging from the energy and chemical industries to agro-industrial activities or waste management. The IED regulates emissions by requiring industrial units operating above a certain threshold to apply the Best Available Techniques (BAT). The BATs are determined through the so-called “Sevilla process”, which brings together industry representatives, NGOs and Member State experts. This process is often criticised for being slow and requiring significant time and resources, and so, changes will be necessary to ensure that extending the scope can be done without undue burden for smallholders included.


Implementation of the IED is handled by Member States, which undertake the permitting and control regimes. The process to apply for a permit involves significant costs, differing from country to country. Moreover, the permit must be renewed on a regular basis and ­­­­­­­­­­investments must be foreseen as well.

With the publication of the EU Green Deal and the Zero Pollution Action Plan, the EU must now adopt an ambitious, revised proposal. The Commission’s revised Directive proposes three central areas of revision:

  1. Scope extension: Firstly, the scope of the IED will be extended to cover farming, by lowering the threshold for rearing of pigs and poultry and including intensive cattle farming in the scope. Extraction of certain mineral raw materials will also be included in the IED, along with the large-scale manufacturing of batteries.
  2. Permitting procedures: Secondly, the Commission wants to ensure a stricter permitting procedure and control in order to achieve full and consistent implementation of the IED across Member States, with tighter controls on air and water emissions.
  3. Resource use: Finally, there will be an increased demand to improve energy use, resource efficiency and water reuse by increasing investment in new cleaner technologies. Furthermore, the focus will be on future pollution control investments which will need to take better account of greenhouse gas emissions, resource efficiency and water reuse.


Given the impact such legislation could have on the competitive advantage of EU companies, when compared with third country counterparts, particular attention will be given to supporting sectors that are essential to building a clean, low carbon and circular economy. Moreover, an Innovation Centre for Industrial Transformation and Emissions (INCITE) will be established.

A further important provision will be the enhancement of data transparency and public access to environmental information, as permit summaries will be made available publicly.

With the Commission’s draft proposal adopted in April, the European Parliament  appointed its rapporteur and shadow rapporteurs (lead negotiators) at the beginning of this summer. The Council of Ministers will meet to discuss the proposal this autumn and thus detailed scrutiny of the legislation will begin in the coming weeks.

The rapporteur, Radan Kanev (EPP, Bulgaria), expects his report to be adopted by 30 November, with MEPs set to table amendments by 7 December. The Environment Council will likewise be looking to make rapid progress throughout the autumn-winter sessions, with a first discussion taking place in the Environment Council on 24 October.

The IED will have significant implications on both the sectors currently in scope and those to be included in the expanded scope. With the Parliament and Council now defining their respective positions, the Hume Brophy Energy & Environment team are available to discuss the potential implications on your business and next steps in the legislative process.

Authors: Sergiu Scolobiuc and Eamonn Lawler

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Eamonn Lawler

I joined Penta over five years ago and currently work as a Managing Director, where I lead our Brussels office’s Energy & Environment Team. Since joining the company, my focus areas have been on energy, environment, transport and circular economy policies. My client work tends to focus on planning and executing public affairs campaigns, with a specific public policy or legislative target to work towards. Advising major MNCs, innovative start-ups and EU trade associations, we analyse the business implications of a legislative proposal and then leverage political, third-party and media engagements for the clients’ policy goals.
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