Certain pollutants, such as carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons, have been identified as especially harmful to the environment and to the health of humans and animals. Emissions is the term commonly used to refer to these pollutants. Emissions control refers to a measure to improve or preserve air quality, thereby reducing the risks associated with them. Such measures are often the result of standards set at various levels of government control to address air pollution.
The quality of the air may have long been a concern. In the latter part of the 20th century, however, focus on the issue grew significantly. This led to the setting of more stringent standards at local, national, and global levels than had previously existed. These emissions standards affected not only businesses, but also individuals. Many of these standards aimed to not only impose rules that would regulate how much emissions are released, but also to ultimately reduce the overall emissions levels and in some cases to completely eliminate particular sources of air pollution.
In order for the standards to be met, emissions controls have been needed. These are methods and strategies that help to achieve air quality goals. For example, a state government may enact an emissions standard that forbids any city from having carbon monoxide emissions above a certain percentage. If the city then requires every factory within its jurisdiction to convert a certain portion of its operations to high-efficiency equipment so that it can comply, the city has imposed emissions control.
The fact that these measures are established at various levels of government means that emissions control requirements can greatly vary. In Europe, for example, the European Union (EU) has the authority to impose regulations. Many countries that are subject to that authority, however, have national regulatory agencies that may have the task of devising methods to implement EU regulations, and these agencies often set more stringent standards.
A benefit of the increase of emissions control is that it has driven technological advancement. It has also increased the awareness of the problem of poor air quality and the motivation to solve it at the household level. Changes have been seen in products such as industrial equipment, automobiles, and energy supplies, which are generally considered to be among the top causes of poor air quality.
Emissions control, despite new tools to deal with it, is often a sensitive topic. This is because requirements and standards can be easier to agree to or to include in legislation than they are to achieve. Those affected by those standards often find it difficult and sometimes impossible to comply.