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FAQs on CCE-EIA

The common assessment framework (GAINS) will link the RAINS integrated assessment model for air pollution, the PRIMES energy model, the TREMOVE transport model, the CAPRI agriculture model, the EMEP atmospheric dispersion model, the GAINS-Europe model for greenhouse gas mitigation, models for health and ecosystems impacts, the GEM-E3 macro-economic general equilibrium model and the Beta and Externe benefit assessment approaches.

What is CCE?


The Coordination Centre for Effects ( CCE) was established by the Dutch Ministry of the Environment (VROM) and began its work in 1990. The CCE is the Programme Centre of the International Co-operative Programme on Modelling and Mapping of Critical Levels & Loads and Air Pollution Effects, Risks and Trends (ICP M&M) and supports the work of the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). As of 2007, 29 National Focal Centres collaborate with the CCE.

What is EC4MACS?


The European Consortium for Modelling Air pollution and Climate Strategies (EC4MACS) is a project funded by the EU LIFE program. EC4MACS provides scientific and economic analyses of policies in support of Europe’s Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution and the European Climate Change Programme in order to better understand how to further reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

What are typical questions for CCE?


Typical questions that the CCE can address are concerned with the consequences for European nature of (changes in) atmospheric emissions (smoke) caused by combustion processes (e.g. industry, energy generation, cars) in countries. Questions include:

  • which natural areas are most sensitive to acidification and nutrient nitrogen, and where are these located
  • which critical loads are exceeded, by how much, and where in Europe
  • how long will it take for a natural system to recover when critical loads are no longer exceeded
  • how long will it take for a European natural system to be damaged when critical loads continue to be exceeded
  • what kind of biological effects can be expected

What does the CCE simulation tool?


CCE-EIA computes protection levels for nature against adverse effects (acidification and eutrophication) of air pollution. These protection levels are called "critical loads". Within EC4MACS, critical loads are used to identify maximum allowable levels of deposition of sulphur and nitrogen compounds. Adverse effects occur when critical loads are exceeded by deposition (exceedance). Response of nature on the change of exceedance can take several decades. This is true both for the delay of damage and recovery. CCE-EIA also includes models to compute the number of years needed for damage or recovery to occur (See CCE Publications)

Which scope does the CCE simulation  tool cover?


Within EC4MACS, the CCE-Ecosystem Impact Assessment covers Europe including Eastern European Caucasian and Central Asian (EECCA) countries. The time horizon of the CCE models are relevant from a policy (1-2 decades) as well as from an ecological point (centuries) of view. Within EC4MACS the CCE focuses on impacts of atmospheric pollution caused by sulphur and nitrogen compounds. Synergy and antagony with effects of climate change can be tentatively included. European nature is characterized according to the so-called European Nature Information System (EUNIS:eunis.eea.europa.eu).

What is the basic idea behind it?


Ecosystem functions have shown to be disturbed by direct exposure to ambient air pollution concentrations as well as by deposition fluxes. This is scientifically well established. Deposition of acidifying compounds and nutrient nitrogen can affect (a) element budgets in the soil solution chemistry, (b) matter uptake by leafs and roots, (c) development of plants and organs (d) element cycle, and (e) pools of biomass/humus. These processes interact in complex ways and their duration vary between short timescales to decades. Deposition at critical load can avoid that air-pollution triggers adverse effects. However, there are other triggers that can affect ecosystem functions, including pests and droughts. Air pollution is not always the strongest trigger of ecosystem stress.

How do you operate it?


Critical loads of European natural systems can in principle be obtained from the Coordination Centre for Effects ( CCE), subject to rules set by the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution. A comparison for each European natural receptor between a deposition and a critical load provides an identification of the risk of an adverse effect. The question whether a deposition is too high at a location in Europe or at a particular point in time can be answered using CCE critical load maps.

Who is funding it and how long will it be around in future?


Activities of the CCE are performed by order and for the account of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, for the account of the Working Group on Effects (WGE) within the trust fund for the partial funding of effect oriented activities under the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP-Convention); for the account of the European Commission LIFE III programme within the framework of Project E/555065 "European Consortium for Modelling Air pollution and Climate Strategies (EC4MACS)" of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL). The current work plan of the effect oriented activities of the WGE - including the CCE activities - is part of the mid and Long-term work plan of the Convention on LRTAP as endorsed by the Executive Body.

Which competitors exist?


The Coordination Centre for Effects is mandated to be the Programme Centre of theInternational Co-operative Programme on Modelling and Mapping of Critical Levels & Loads and Air Pollution Effects, Risks and Trends (ICP M&M) under the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution. Results of work by the CCE is reviewed by Parties to the Convention on LRTAP in yearly meetings of the Task Force on Modelling and Mapping and of the Working Group on Effects. What is the state of play BEFORE EC4MACS and what should it be AFTER? The focus of effect oriented activities after EC4MACS should include more knowledge of the risk of air pollution to the biology in Natura 2000 areas. In addition to effects triggered via soil-chemistry (before EC4MACS), more focus could be put on "good ecological condition" after EC4MACS.

What are the necessary actions and stages during 2007-2012?


The assessment of effects to biological endpoints necessitates the further development of methodologies. Especially in the field of critical loads and dynamic modelling. Vegetation processes need to be addressed in conjunction with - and in addition to processes in the soil chemistry. What are the main challenges? Dynamic modelling of vegetation changes is data intensive. An important challenge is to intensify the collaboration with national scientific institutions and National Focal Centres. This is needed to develop new databases and methodologies to address relationships between air pollution and changes of biodiversity. The influence of climate change constitutes an additional major challenge in the assessment of effects of air pollution. B. Questions concerning Input: (always consider before and after EC4MACS)

What data are needed?


The assessment of critical loads and the application of dynamic models require data on soils, soil solution chemistry, meteorology and land cover of natural areas in European countries. The European database on critical loads and dynamic modelling is designed by and maintained at the Coordination Centre for Effects. Methods, data requirements and assessment results are reviewed at yearly CCE workshops. The European database requires a regular update to meet methodological, scientific and policy relevant requirements. The Working Group on Effects (WGE) of the LTRTAP Convention can request the CCE to issue a call for data to Parties to the Convention. CCE calls-for-data are substantiated by means of instructions that are sent to National Focal Centres. An example of these "Instructions for submitting empirical critical loads" and can be found as Appendices in the CCE Status Reports.

What resolution is necessary?


The number of data points submitted by Parties to the Convention is not pre-defined. A national Focal Centre can decide to submit as many data points for natural area within an EMEP grid cell as it deems necessary. The European critical load database in 2008 is expected to include about 2 million data points to cover about 6 million km2 of natural areas in Europe.

What quality of data is needed?


The European database requires a regular update to meet methodological, scientific and policy relevant requirements. The Working Group on Effects (WGE) of the LTRTAP Convention regularly requests the CCE to issue a call for data to Parties to the Convention.

How is quality assured? 


Methods, data requirements and assessment results are scientifically reviewed at yearly CCE workshops and by means of publications in the open literature. The quality of the data including its applicability for the support of air pollution abatement policies is also reviewed by Parties to the Convention. This is done in yearly meetings of the Task Force on Modelling and Mapping and of the Working Group on Effects. The CCE produces an official document under the Convention on LRTAP reflecting the status of work. Its contents is first presented to the yearly CCE workshop and to the Task Force on Modelling and Mapping. The document is then officially submitted for review by the Working Group on Effects who can adopt it. In addition to this formal document and scientific publications, the CCE also produces a bi-annual CCE Status Report. The CCE Status Report enables National Focal Centres to substantiate their contribution to the European critical loads database. The CCE Status Report 2008 addresses the database that is available to the revision of the Protocol to abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone done atGothenburg,Swedenon30 November 1999. The database is also intended for the review and revision of the European Commission's Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution including the National Emission Ceilings Directive (NEC).

How can you notice wrong data?


The CCE also develops and maintains a so-called European Background database which includes recent information on soils and land cover. The Back ground database is based on sources that are independent from submissions by National Focal Centres. This database is used to compute and map critical loads for natural areas that are classified following the European Nature Information System (EUNIS). The CCE applies the background database on critical loads to compute and map critical loads in countries for which data have ceased to meet current methodological requirements, or for which no data have been submitted. In addition, the background database can be used to compare critical loads that have been submitted by National Focal Centres.

Which sources do you use? Are there alternatives?


Data are submitted by National Focal Centres (NFCs) who use national databases including information on soils and soil chemistry, vegetation, land cover and meteorology. NFC reports substantiating their contributions to the European critical load databases can be found in CCE-Status reports, the latest of which is published in 2008. The latest CCE background data sources are described in chapter 4 of CCE Status Report 2005 . What power do you have to get the data?

National data contributions to the European critical loads database depend on the responsiveness of nations to CCE calls for data-updates that are officially supported under the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution and by the European Commission. C. Questions concerning Output: Basically what data are produced? Examples of outputs generated by the CCE are documented in CCE Status Reports . These include geographic maps of critical loads, critical load exceedances, statistics on Recovery Delay Times and Damage Delay Times and statistics on input data regarding soil chemical indicators. An important statistic is the so-called Average Accumulated Exceedance (AAE). The AAE is the area weighted exceedance (of acidity or nutrient nitrogen) of depositions over critical loads. The AAE can be computed for each EUNIS class, for Natura 2000 areas, for regions, countries andEuropeas a whole. What resolution (geographic grid size, per capita data, ....)?

The most important resolution, from a policy point of view, is the resolution at which depositions are computed, i.e. the EMEP grid cell. The Average Accumulated Exceedance (AAE) in an EMEP grid cell includes all ecosystems within the EMEP grid cell for which critical loads have been computed. Maps of critical loads and exceedances can also be produced on polygons of natural areas. How does the quality of input data influence the output? As with all assessments, the general rule of thumb holds that "garbage in leads to garbage out". However, the procedures that need to be followed by National Focal Centres to contribute to the European critical loads database and existing formal and scientific review mechanisms under the LRTAP Convention are thorough. The population size (about 2 million data points for about 6 million km2 of natural area) also contributes to the robustness of results. The application of different models to assess a single phenomenon ("Ensemble Assessment of Impacts") can be an additional element in the robustness of outputs (see e.g. chapter 4 of CCE Progress Report 2007)

How is output quality assured? 


The procedures that need to be followed by National Focal Centres to contribute to the European critical loads database and existing formal and scientific review mechanisms under the LRTAP Convention are thorough. The population size (about 2 million datapoints for about 6 million km2 of natural area) also contributes to the robustness of results. The application of different models to assess a single phenomenon ("ensemble assessment of impacts") can an additional element in the robustness of outputs (see e.g. chapter 4 of CCE Progress Report 2007)

How can you notice wrong output?


Adverse effects of air pollution can take decades to materialize. The critical load approach is based on the precautionary principle. Critical load exceedances can vary between two or more emission reduction scenarios that are generated and simulated with the GAINS model. Areas that are forecasted to be at risk subject to multiple emission reduction scenarios are more likely to be damaged than areas that are at risk under a few emission reduction scenarios. Therefore, the question whether an output is "wrong" is more difficult to answer than the question whether an exceedance is less (un-) likely to occur.

Who wants your output? Can you sell the output?


CCE outputs are used by (1) the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution, (2) the European Commission under the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution, (3) the European Environmental Agency for the support of Core Set Indicators and SEBI2010 indicators, and (4) national assessments of air pollution effects. CCE material is used in academic research in environmental science and Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA). It has contributed to a significant number of scientific publications as well as Masters and Ph.D theses. CCE outputs are generated with public funding in support of international air pollution abatement policies.

last update 25-03-2013

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