Air quality in Azerbaijan: Legal analysis.

Author: Sadiga Mehdizadeh
For PPI.

Executive summary.

Air pollution is one of top global environmental problems causing severe damages on human health and ecosystems. WHO estimates 7 million people died as a result of air pollution exposure in 2012.  Acidification and eutrophication, reduced crop yield and forest growth are main negative impacts of air pollution on the ecosystems.

The developed oil and gas industry, spanning almost 150 years history and industrialized cities of the Soviet period, such as Baku, Sumgait, Ganja, Shirvan has made Azerbaijan vulnerable to air pollution.

Starting from 90ss several industrial sources stopped their operation due to the economic problems. As a result of such temporal change air pollution in Azerbaijan significantly decreased. But later in early 2000s air pollution from transport has visibly increased. 

Currently, transport emissions are accountable for 80% of air pollution. As part of air pollution abatement policy in 2010 Azerbaijan government has started the implementation of Euro emission standards into national legislation. Unfortunately environmental legislation in transition usually omits main benefits of such progressive policy decisions.

As yet, national air quality legislation has based on soviet environmental standards. It does not create an adequate ground for effective air quality management. On the other hand, quite often out-dated standards collide with newly implemented modern concepts and weakens the effective implementation of the latter.

This paper analyses Azerbaijan’s air quality legislation in the light of internationally recognized and science-based standards.

Chapter two briefly reviews main international, regional air quality standards and their application in Azerbaijan.

Chapter three includes information on air pollution trends, sources and scale also about its possible impact on human health in Azerbaijan.

Chapter four analyses the national air quality legislation by emphasizing its main features. It investigates current trends in Azerbaijani air quality policy and law making, also proposes phased strategy for further legislative and policy developments.


Humanity tends to evaluate resources based on their market price. Nevertheless, there are some vital resources that have no market price, but still are vital for human life. Ambient air could be considered as a bright example of such. Due to its common good status ambient air has not been given enough attention both in local and international level for a long time.

Starting from the mid 20th century the environmental legacy of fast industrial development and visible negative effects of air pollution on human health brought the issue to the attention of Western policy makers.

Further scientific researches and studies have proved the dangerous character and global scale of air pollution. It also soon became clear that effective management of air pollution needs not only local but international cooperation as well. It has set a new wave of regional agreements and strategies.

Currently air pollution is recognised as one of the top crucial environmental problems. Different countries, mostly developed ones, have established science based strategies and legislation with strict limit values, while developing countries are strugilling with the raising scale of air pollution, obsolete legislation and financial challenges regarding the issue.

As a country with quickly developing economy and industry Azerbaijan is not an exception from the list of countires strugulling with air pollution. Ambient air pollution is in the list of top five envrionemental problems in Azerbaijan. (UNECE (2011) Environmental Performance Review: Azerbaijan) According to the official statistics, the top three causes of mortality among population are composed by diaeses tightly connected to the air pollution exposure. (SSC 2014)


A quickly expanding economy, developed oil-gas industry and environmental legislation in transition makes Azerbaijan vulnerable to the air pollution issues.

Despite the continuous efforts of Azerbaijan on air quality improvement, air pollution still remains in the list of poorly managed environmental issues. (UNECE (2011) Environmental Performance Review: Azerbaijan)

 2.The overview of international and regional air quality standards.

2.1. The 1979 Geneva Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP)

UNECE CLRTAP is one of the cornerstones of international policy on transboundary air pollution. It is a binding document and currently has 51 parties. The Convention came into force in 1983 and presents the main trends of its establishment period. It requires parties to follow concrete strategies both on local and international level for effective abatement of air pollution. Thus the Convention differentiates air pollution from transboundary air pollution by providing (CLRTAP 1979, 1.a.) separate definitions of these terms. According to the Convention, air pollution means the introduction by man, directly or indirectly, of substances or energy into the air, resulting in deleterious effects of such a nature as to endanger human health, harm living resources and ecosystems and material property and impair or interfere with amenities and other legitimate uses of the environment, and “air pollutants” shall be construed accordingly. By such definition the air pollutants are divided into two categories: substances and energy. Considerating energy as a possible pollutant makes definition more flexible and easy for application in the context of modern economy and industry. In comparison with conventional definition Soviet standards and documents of the same period differ in their narrow approach. (GOST 17.2-1.04-77 dated on 01.07.1978) The Soviet approach, which lately formed air quality legislation frames in post Soviet countries, did not recognise energy as an air pollutant. What this means is that only substances comprise air pollutant category.

In contrast to the air pollution, CLTRAP defines transboundary air pollution based on the concept of state jurisdiction. It states that long-range air pollution is air pollution in which the physical origin is situated wholly or in part within the area under the national jurisdiction of one State and which has adverse effects in the area under the jurisdiction of another State at such a distance that it is not generally possible to distinguish the contribution of individual emission sources or groups of sources. The state responsibility for caused transboundary environmental damages, which takes its roots from the famous Trail Smelter case, has been successfully reflected by CLRTAP.

As specific measures the CLRTAP requires state parties to develop strategies and policies for effective air pollution prevention and management. Additionally, states should pay special attention to scientific research activities and information exchange between parties. The Convention itself is implemented by the EMEP which includes five centers: Centre on Emission Inventories and Projections, Chemical Coordinating Centre, Meteorological Synthesizing Centre (East), Meteorological Synthesizing Centre (West) Centre for Integrated Assessment Modelling. EMEP has established emission inventory methods which estimate emissions from anthropogenic and  natural emission sources as well. Article 9 emphasizes the need to introduce EMEP methods via national legislation by the parties.


When it comes to specific lists of pollutants CLRTAP does not provide any list of pollutants. Specific targets and strategies concerning most common and dangerous air pollutants are provided by seven Protocols of CLRTAP.

The Protocols set special targets, require application of BAT’s and continuous development of air quality legislation by parties. For istance, the Protocol on the Reduction of Sulfur Emissions or their Transboundary Fluxes at least by 30 per cent was aimed at the reducing  sulfur emissions by at least 30% by 1993. The  Protocol on the Control of Nitrogen Oxides or their Transboundary Fluxes involves two stages of application. The first stage requires the freeze emission of nitrogen oxides or their transboundary fluxes, while the second stage requires the application of an effect-based approach. The Protocol on the Control of Emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds on their Transboundary Fluxes proposes three different target options for state parties. The Protocol aims at gradually attaining critical loads and sets long-term targets for reductions in sulfur emissions. The Aarhus Protocol on Heavy Metals targets three harmful metals: cadmium, lead and mercury. The Protocol aims at cutting emissions form industrial sources, combustion process and waste incineration. It sets stringent limit values for emissions from stationary sources and suggests the best available techniques. The Protocol also requires the parties to phase out leaded petrol. The 1998 Aarhus Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants sets out to eliminate any discharges, emissions and losses of POPs by banning or restricting their production and use. Finally the 1999 Gothenburg Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone sets emission limits for sulphur, nitrogen oxide, VOCs and ammonia. The deadline for compliance was set to be 2010 while the benchmark year was 1990. Recent amendments to the Protocol allot national emission reduction commitments to be achieved by 2020 and 2005 was set as the benchmark year.

It should be noted that CLRTAP provides a more flexible approach regarding countries with transitional economy. For instance Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants allows such countries to apply extended deadlines for target meeting, while Protocol on Heavy Metals provides member states, which are about to join the Protocol between 1 January 2014 and 31 December 2019, with flexible transitional arrangements concerning BAT and limit values for stationary sources.

CLRTAP’s successful implementation for more than 30 years has played a crucial role in air quality improvement in States that are parties to it. As a result of the fulfillment of the conventional target concentrations of SO2 have decreased by 70%, NOx by 32%, VOCs 45%, NH3 29% from 1990 to 2008. (EEA 2010, EU Emission Inventory Report 1990-2008 under the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution)

Despite the fact that Azerbaijan ratified CLRTAP in 2002, EMEP methods of evaluation and monitoring of pollutants have not been introduced through national legislation yet. Currently Azerbaijan is assessing financial and institutional capability for possible ratification of CLRTAP Protocols.

2.2. WHO Air Quality Guidelines

WHO air quality guidelines is a science-based and non-binding document offering guidance for the decrease of the health impacts by air pollution. The first such guideline was published for Europe in 1987. Later, due to intense and dangerous character of air pollution, especially for Asia and Latin America countries, WHO published new guidelines for global use in 2005. Air quality guidelines for Europe cover 35 pollutants, while Air quality guidelines global update pays attention on classic pollutants such as particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.


The WHO guidelines are based on scientific evidence and expert evaluations. They apply various criteria for accurate assessment of pollutant’s effect on human health. For instance, criteria like the LOAEL (lowest-observed-adverse-effect level) and the NOAEL (no-observed-adverse-effect level) were used for evaluation of the pollutant’s morphological and functional impacts on target organisms. Whereas a carcinogenic endpoint criterion includes a qualitative assessment of the likelihood it is that a substance is a human carcinogen, and it includes a quantitative assessment of the cancer risk that is likely to occur at given levels and duration of exposure.

Despite the fact that the WHO guidelines mainly aim to protect human health from the negative effect of pollutants, they pay attention to their eco-toxic effects as well. The critical level and critical load are the main criteria used by the guidelines for evaluation of pollutants’ effects on vegetation and ecosystems. The critical level evaluates the pollutants effect on physiology, growth and vitality, while critical load covers pollutants impact on the functions and structure of the whole ecosystem.


Limit values set by WHO guidelines were used as a basis by policy makers around the world. The brightest example of successful implementation of WHO standards is the EU air quality legislation. It should be noted that the WHO guidelines offer valuable options for policy makers from developing countries. The obstacles created by the need of high cost scientific researches in developing countries have already been solved by WHO guidelines. Besides, WHO guidelines offer interim targets for smooth and economic introduction of air quality standards via national legislation.


Azerbaijan air quality legislation does not refer to or include WHO AQG’s full pollutant list and limit values as a basis. Nevertheless, interim measures proposed by WHO AQG could be considered as a reasonable option for policy decisions in the near future.

2.3. EU Ambient Air Quality legislation

Air pollution was one of the first environmental problems that caught EU policy makers’ attention. As a result of this, first requirements on air quality were included into Directives starting from the 1980s.

Continuous scientific researches and implementation of science-based limit values into legislation have gradually improved air quality in Europe for last 10 years.

EU air quality legislation features an integrated approach and regular science-based updates. It comprises Directives, Decisions and Regulations which cover different sectors.

The Air quality Directive (Directive 2008/50/EC) is the main document which reflects the policy course on pollutants. It reflects main rules and requirements for monitoring and evaluation of air quality, it also sets objectives for such pollutants as particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, lead, benzene and carbon monoxide. Limit values and targets defined by the Directive were created on the basis of WHO AQG.


Under the Air Quality Directive the state parties are required to establish zones and agglomerations which will make air quality management more controllable and effective. The Directive also defines the scope of criteria for air quality assessment and requires parties to provide the public with adequate information on current the state of air quality.

Another important document related to air quality is the National Emission Ceiling Directive (Directive 2011/81/EC). The Directive sets the national emission ceilings for acidifying and eutrophying pollutants. Annual national limits expressed in kilotons cover pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and ammonia. The Directive uses 2010 and 2020 as benchmarks. A proposal for the reduction of national emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants has kept limits unchangeable till 2020. But it sets new emission ceiling from 2020 to 2030 which has been defined in harmony with CLRTAP Gothenburg Protocol’s requirements. Also, particulate matter and methane are included into the list of pollutants.

EU legislation pays special attention to emissions from industrial sources. The Directive on Industrial Emissions (Directive 2010/75/EU) lays down requirements on integrated prevention and control of pollution arising from industrial emissions. It sets special environmental requirements for listed industrial activities, requires application of BATs, pollution prevention and energy efficiency measures. The Directive also includes special provisions on combustion plants, waste incineration and co-incineration plants, installations using organic solvents and installations producing titanium dioxide.


Despite achieved positive results in emission reduction, the EU systematically reviews long-term and short-term goals for better management. For instance, current air quality policy derives its roots from Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution adopted in 2005. It is based on research carried under by the Clean Air for Europe (CAFE) program and sets targets up to 2020. According to the strategy, till 2020 SO2 emissions will need to decrease by 82%, NOx emissions by 60%, volatile organic compounds  (VOCs) by 51%, ammonia by 27%, and primary PM2.5 (particles emitted directly into the air) by 59% compared to the year 2000.

The Azerbaijan government pays special attention to the approximation of domestic laws according to the EU standards. It has already introduced the Euro standards on transport emissions via national legislation. Additionally, several national policies and strategies refer to the approximation of laws as an important task on environmental issues. Recently Azerbaijan took part in an Air Quality Governance project in ENPI East Countries. The project was funded by the European Commission and supported participating countries in legislative and institutional development regarding air quality management.

Air pollution trends in Azerbaijan

The crucial role Azerbaijani oil played in World War II ultimately led to tangible and dangerous air pollution for the country. In the 1940s the part of Baku hosting main oil refining plants started to be called Gara Sheher (Black City) due to the uninterrupted appearance of smog and soot.  Later Soviet Union’s ambitious plans were based on industrial targets rather than human health which made air pollution even worse.

Starting from the 50-60s of twentieth century, intensive tree planting activities were used as a main strategy against air pollution. Unfortunately, the high scale of pollution and the absence of systematic environmental strategies moved the situation forward, closer to the critical point. In the 1970-80s most industrialized cities such as Baku, Sumgait, Ganja, Mingachevir and Shirvan were facing an ecological crisis.

Gained independence brought a new prospective also legacy of environmental problems to Azerbaijan.

Due to the economic conditions, the main sources of air pollution in the 1990s, namely, factories, plants and other stationary sources were shut down. It was expected that afterwards air quality would improve taking into consideration the accountability of stationary sources for almost 80% of air pollution. Actually, general improvement in the scale of pollution was observed, however quickly growing economy has triggered the new wave of air pollution. In the early 1990s stationary sources were accountable for 80% of air pollution, while in 2013 mobile sources became accountable for 79% of air pollution.


Geographically Absheron is the most polluted area of Azerbaijan. Top list of most polluted cities includes Baku, Ganja and Sumgait. (see Figure 10)


Studies conducted by the WHO on air pollution health impacts have brought new facts to the public attention. In this regard interlink between air pollution and mortality in Azerbaijan become more visible through statistics. (See Figure 2)

Azerbaijan has already taken some steps in the air quality improvement process. The replacement of medium-sized buses with large ones in public transport, the application of intellectual transport management system, the gradual implementation of Euro emission standards could be considered as the primary air pollution reducing policies.

However, air pollution in Azerbaijan still needs more specific measures and policies. Azerbaijan air quality legislation is in transition and therefore does not fully express modern and science-based approach on the problem.

 4.Azerbaijan Ambient Air Quality legislation

4.1. General legal and institutional framework

The right of Azerbaijani citizens to a healthy environment has been recognized by the Constitution. The Constitution also it defines the state as a guarantor of ecological balance and environmental protection in the country.

The main elements of healthy environment, including ambient air quality, are defined by special laws and regulations within legislation. The essential part of such laws include Law on Environmental Protection N 678-IQ/08.06.1999 ,  Law on Ambient air protection N 109-IIQ/27.03.2001, Law on Hydro meteorological activity N 485-IQ/17.04.1998  and Law on Sanitary-hygienic safety N371/10.11.1992.

The “Law on Environmental Protection” covers the main principles of environmental protection in Azerbaijan. It lists the main rights and responsibilities for different groups of citizens, including state officials, regarding environmental protection; it also defines the legal grounds of natural management and use, and reflects general requirements for sector activities. The Law pays attention to the public awareness and educational activities as well. It should be noted that the mentioned law creates framework for the whole system of environmental protection. Definitions (for instance allowable limit of pollution) and measures (absence of any targets on pollution) covered by this law create grounds for more specific areas of environmental protection in Azerbaijan.

Despite the fact that the whole VII chapter regulates ecological requirements for several types of economic activities, it does not include any special provision on air quality. Article 49 addresses only climate change and ozone layer protection.

However the primary law on air quality should be considered the Law on Ambient air protection.

The law includes the primary definitions and terms, also the main principles of air quality governing. Allowable concentration of substances and substances itself are the main indicators of air pollution. According to article 1.0.3., excess of ecological and hygienic norms by harmful substances comprises air pollution. In contrast to CLRTAP the law does not include energy into the scope of air pollutants. Energy is reviewed as a source of possible harmful or harmless physical impact on ambient air.

Air pollution as a definition is based on two main indicators: ecological and hygienic norms. The allowable concentration of harmful pollutants, which does not create harmful effects to the environment, comprises ecological norm. In contrast, the allowable concentration of harmful pollutants, excluding harmful impacts on human health, composes the hygienic norm.

Sources of pollution are divided into two categories: statutory and mobile sources. The statutory sources include plants, factories and any other static sources covered by various fields of industry, while mobile sources cover mostly transport also specific machines for agricultural purposes.

Substances casting danger for human health and the environment must be officially registered and its exposure by sources only permitted under special permit-issuing procedure. Such special permit is issued by MENR on a paid basis.

The law describes human health as the main priority of the ambient air protection system. Provisions for public monitoring of ambient air protection partly mirror the requirements of the Aarhus Convention. The law also clarifies the rights and responsibilities of the national authorities on ambient air protection by a long list, which is typical for most post-Soviet countries’ environmental legislation.

Expressed in a very general way the Law on Ambient air protection lacks specific approach and strategies. It does not include any target or reference to the possible application of targets.

The Law on Hydro meteorological activity includes provisions on scientific observations, monitoring and data collection of different environmental sectors including ambient air as well.

The Law on Sanitary-hygienic safety defines the general requirements for water management, construction, chemicals, food and other kind of economic activities, but there is no any special provisions or requirements on air quality.

Nevertheless, it brings human health and possible impacts of environment on it to the attention. The law recognizes citizens’ rights such as the right to living in a suitable environment (article 5), the right to take an active part in the decision making process on environmental and health affecting issues (article 7), the right to demand a compensation for  health damages from the environment (article 8).  In the context of environmental and human rights interconnection article 8 seems distinctively valuable and creates room for further implementation of human rights into environmental legislation.

Other specific issues of air quality are regulated by sub-laws, mostly by decrees of Cabinet of Ministries. For instance, rules for the establishment of ecological and hygienic norms are set by the Decree of Cabinet of Ministries N 59 dated on 13.05.2003. The decree does not set any special requirements for norms, but still clarifies the list of responsible authorities for setting such norms. According to the decree N 59, the MENR is responsible for the ecological, while MH – for the hygienic norms setting.

The particular issues such as the regulation of source-based pollution, fuel and transport certification rules, permit issuing for dangerous substances and etc. are also regulated by special Decrees. It should be noted that the mentioned Decrees usually clarify general requirements set by the Laws.

The two main indicators of air quality, namely, ecological and hygienic norms are based on standards, mostly from the Soviet period, called GOSTs. The GOSTs were adopted in the 1970-80s and do not reflect modern science-based approach on air quality management. Furthermore in some parts GOSTs are inconsistent with national legislation.

Azerbaijan also ratified CLRTAP in 2002 but has not yet signed any target setting Protocol. CLRTAP implementation into national legislation is considerably weak.

Institutionally, the MENR plays the most important role in the air quality management. It is responsible for the developing of environmental policy, drafting legislation, implementing international agreements and environmental monitoring. Specific responsibilities on air quality management are divided between various departments within the Ministry. For instance, the Department on State Environmental Expertise has responsibilities for permit issuing, the Department on Environmental Protection for inspecting and the Department on Environmental Monitoring for monitoring.

Nevertheless, other different state institutions also take part in air quality management. The MH is responsible for hygienic norm setting, its implementation and for appropriate measures on human health protection from the harmful effects of air pollution. The Ministry of Transport is responsible for emission reduction measures from the transport sector. The State Traffic Police in cooperation with MENR inspect compliance of transport emissions with the recently adopted Euro IV standard. Tractors and such kind of vehicles used for agricultural purposes are under inspection of the Ministry of Agriculture. Finally, the State Statistical Committee collects the data and reports annually on the emissions trend.

4.2. Standards

In spite of Azerbaijan’s continuous efforts on standard setting for the last 5 years, currently the main standards of air quality are still based on the Soviet period GOSTs.

Maximum allowable concentration is recognized as the primary criterion for air pollutants. It was defined by article 3 of GOST 17.2-1.04.77. as follows:

“Maximum allowable concentration is a pollutant concentration limit based on averaging time criterion which does not create any harmful effect to the human health directly on indirectly, even if such kind of exposure continues periodically or during lifetime of a human. Same definition is applicable for the evaluation of pollutants impact on environment (ecosystem) as well.”

The definition reflects the limited approach of its adoption period and does not cover the latest scientific evidence.  MAC applies the same indicator for human health and ecosystem that are intolerable from scientific view. What is more, such an approach contradicts to the Azerbaijan air quality legislation which puts separate indicators for air pollution impacts on human health and on the ecosystem.

Average time measure for MAC is divided into four categories: daily, short-term, monthly and annual. Average time is based on the following measurement principle.


Hygienic and ecological norms are based on MACs and averaging time estimations.  For instance, hygienic norms refer to the MACs for short-term and daily means. Averaging time as well as concentration limits soundly differ MACs from internationally recognized standards. For example, according to WHO guidelines averaging time for short-term exposure of sulfur dioxide is 10 minutes. While GN standard’s averaging time for short-term exposure varies between 20 and 30 minutes. The average time standard set by WHO is based on scientific evidence. Studies on asthmatics indicate that a proportion experience changes in pulmonary function and respiratory symptoms after periods of exposure to sulfur dioxide as short as 10 minutes. Based on such studies, WHO Guidelines recommend policy makers to set 500 μg/m3 as limit value for short term 10 minutes exposure of sulfur dioxide.

Unfortunately, out-dated averaging time measurement and concentration limits are not the only problems of the national air quality standards. The list of monitored pollutants lacks such dangerous pollutants for human health as PM2.5 , PM10 and ground level ozone.

Emission standards for statutory sources

Along with standards and rules the legislation puts emphasis on several special terms such as technical norm, allowable limit of pollutant and interim emission limit.  Technical norm is equally applicable to mobile and to statutory sources. Taking into account technical and operational features, it defines the maximum emission capacity of a given source. Unlike the previous allowable emission limit, it has been set in conformity with hygienic and ecological norms with the consideration of technical norm and background pollution of statutory source. In contrast to the technical norm, the allowable emission limit is less specific. The technical norm along with allowable emission limit is the main criteria for the statutory source pollution assessment.

The interim emission limit is a special measure set with consideration to the social-economic development rate of the host region, aiming at the phase transition of statutory source to the allowable emission limit.

The list of statutory sources covered by the technical norm and the allowable emission limit criterion is divided into four categories. The list covers different sectors of industry and it is formed on the quantitative, concentration and source-based assessment of pollutants. (See Figure 16)

The MENR is responsible for establishing the allowable emission limit projects for the mentioned sources. The MENR develops such project in accordance with special Handbook adopted by MENR by decision N 228 dated on 18.05.2009. The technologies applied on source, their pollution capacities and pollutant’s list are all essential factors for allowable emission limit project drafting. The approved project is subject to revision every five years and could be changed in accordance with the source’s activity.

In the case of the inability of allowable emission limit application by source the MENR is authorized to set interim emission limit.  Law has set the pollution abatement oriented action plan as the

pre-condition for the interim emission limit application by operators.

It’s worth mentioning that, all above mentioned criteria are based on two main indicators, hygienic an ecological norms.

The hygienic norm is comprised from GN standard. The standard reflects the list of pollutants and MAC for each pollutant applicable in populated urban and rural areas. It covers a wide list of pollutants from which only 17 pollutants are monitored in Azerbaijan on a regular basis. MACs are classified on short-term and daily averaging time basis.


Regarding ecological norm, it should be noted that the definition of such kind of a norm itself comprises absolutely new approach on air quality criteria, since during the Soviet environmental law approach put the human health and ecosystem under one umbrella.

Despite the fact that national legislation defines the ecological norm as one of the two main criteria of air quality, there is no adopted document or standard which could be considered as an ecological norm. In practice the absence of ecological norm is compensated partly by EIA and State Ecological Expertise evaluation. The absence of ecological standards and application of out-dated hygienic norms not only weakens the whole air quality assessment system, but also casts danger on human health and ecosystem.

Therefore urgent adoption of national hygienic and ecological standards is needed. Moreover, the general classification of statutory sources by law should be defined into a more specific one.

Emission standards for mobile sources.

Azerbaijan used to apply GOST standards on mobile sources till 2010. Starting from 2010 Azerbaijan commenced implementation of the Euro standards into national legislation.

The first standard from Euro series Euro I was adopted in 1992. Its primary goal is the reduction of air pollution by nitrogen dioxide, hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide.


The Euro standard’s combined approach makes it valuably different, since it includes limits on pollutants, test procedures for producers, application of specific technologies and requirements on fuel quality.


Emissions are tested over New European Driving Cycle. All emissions are expressed in g/km. In addition, Euro standards require producers to apply catalysts, absorbers, filters and other emission decreasing technologies. Such kind of technologies usually targets a specific pollutant. For instance, for the fulfillment of Euro IV requirements on gasoline fueling strategy were improved.

Another important issue is the fuel quality requirements. Euro IV applies EN 590:2004 standard for diesel. Under the current standard sulfur emission limit comprises 50 ppm. In comparison, Euro V sets 10 ppm sulfur emission limit for diesel. The sulfur emission limit for gasoline under Euro IV by EN 228:2004  is also 50 ppm.  Meanwhile the emission limit set by previous Euro III standard was 150 ppm.

Azerbaijan officially passed to Euro IV standard on April 1, 2014. Therefore, national standard called AZS 636-2012 “Road transport. Ecological categories” has been amended in accordance with Euro IV. The standard classifies vehicles into ecological categories based on their emission features and the country of origin.


Undoubtedly, the implementation of Euro standards is a progressive policy step towards air quality improvement. However, in order to achieve the effective abatenment of air pollution integrated policies are needed.  For instance, the large number of vehicles that do not comply with Euro standards are still in use. Besides this the lack of technical capacity impedes  effective monitoring and full implementation of Euro standards within the country.

4.3. Monitoring and assessment

By law air quality monitoring has been included into the list of 12 regularly monitored environmental sectors. The MENR is accountable for such monitoring and it is carried on by three post types: observation post, mobile post and under plume post. A number of observation posts depend on population density; per observation post for every 50 thousand inhabitants.

Air quality standards and especially hygienic norm are considered as the basis for observations.

Currently 17 pollutants are observed by 26 posts on a regular basis. Observations are based on passive sampling.

Stationary sources.

The pollution of atmosphere by harmfbul pollutans from stationary sources is subject to special permission. The special permission is issued on a paid basis for three years. The legislation divides stationary sources into four categories based on the  quantitative, concentration and harmfulness features of emissions discharged by sources.


Generally, monitoring of air pollution by stationary sources is based on inventory data collected by an operator. Despite the fact that pollutants inventarization is executed by operators, by law such activity comprises part of the state environmental inspection. Inventarization is conducted every five years under the methodological guidance of MENR. Annual statistics of discharged pollutants from stationary sources are built based on accounting documents of environmental protection and inventory.

Mobile sources.

Mobile sources are accountable for almost 80% of air pollution in Azerbaijan. The Law on Ambient Air Protection applies such criteria as an allowable emission limit and technical norm to the mobile sources as well. The operation of vehicles exceeding the limits established by technical norm is forbidden. The same principle has been expressed in a more detalied way by law on Road Traffic. According to article 21.1. of the mentioned Law production, import and operation of vehicles exceeding pollution limits is forbidden.

The State Traffic Police (STP) is accountable for the monitoring of transport emissions compliance.  Such kind of monitoring is held at the technical inspection departments, checkup centres and roadsides on a regular basis. It should be noted that lack of technical capacity weakens effective monitoring and thus compliance with the standards. Therefore, policy makers should pay special attention to the capacity strengtening of STP. Furthermore, regulation on the technical inspection needs a more stringent approach.

Moreover MENR and SCSMP are accountable for a joint issue of  conformance certification for fuel, engines, transport, etc. The certification procedure is based on international standards and it is valid for 2 years. The certification compliance requirements are subject to regular inspection. A possible case of breach requires correction, suspension or secondary certification.

Starting from the 2010 the out-dated GOSTs were replaced by Euro emission standards. Currently, the Euro IV is the main criterion for emission from mobile sources.

The annual statistics of pollutant emissions from mobile sources are calculated based on motor vehicle fleet in use and quantity of consumed fuels.

Environmental Ä°mpact Assessment.

Azerbaijani legislation views State Ecological Expertise (SEE) as the main model of environmental assessment. EIA is recognised as an element of such assessment and it is subjected to SEE inspection.

The legislation defines two types of ecological expertise: state and public ecological expertise. Public ecological expertise (PEE) could be issued by public unions and different public groups. Decisions issued as a result of  public ecological expertise are not binding and include recommendations.

In contrast to the PEE, the SEE is defined more comprehensively by legislation and covers a wide range of activities including developmental projects on governmental and local levels. The SEE is a binding document and examines EIA documents. Namely, within the SEE, the air polluting emission limits are set for sources.

The air quality evaluation within the SEE and even EIA does not reflect internationally recognized standards. The dual approach within EIA legislation itself creates legal contradictions, hence weakens the whole system on air pollution prevention, the monitoring and assessment.

The lack of ecological norms, legislative problems within EIA system and the out-dated design of SEE urgently demands the attention of national policy makers.

4.4. Policies and strategies.

Despite the fact that some preliminary measures on air quality improvement have been reflected through different environmental strategies and programs, Azerbaijan has not adopted any particular environmental program on air quality control.

For instance, the National Program on Environmentally Sustainable Socio-Economic Development (2003-2010) addressed the air pollution issue and covered some measures like supplying stationary sources with advanced equipment, transfer of unleaded petrol, increasing green spaces and compliance with EU norms for vehicles. In the following years a number of stationary sources, the activities of which proved to be utterly harmful, were stopped. Furthermore, the process of applying EU standards for fuel production and vehicle emissions was realized within the scope of this Program.

The Complex Action Plan on Improvement of Environmental Situation in the Republic of Azerbaijan for 2006-2010 can considered as preliminary measures on air quality improvement. Paying special attention to air pollution from vehicles clause 5.4 of the Plan defines some specific tasks related to application of European emission standards for transport. The document also includes the creation of new environmental control stations for road transport, extension of pedestrian areas, taking measures for utilization of transport vehicles that are out of use. Although the objectives of the Plan have been mostly realized, utilization of out-of-use vehicles and creation of environmental control stations are still among the issues requiring action.

The State Program on Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development in the Republic of Azerbaijan for 2008-2015 also pays special attention to air quality management. The Program emphasizes the measures for supplying stationary sources with up-to-date technologies, as well as greenhouse gas emissions discharged into the air by energy industry and climate change.

Section 11 of the Concept of Development Azerbaijan 2020: Look into the Future that defines the development targets of Azerbaijan until 2020 is dedicated to the issues related to ecology and environmental protection. With respect to air quality, the section sets the target of preparation and application of national standards adapted to EU standards on harmful substances discharged into the atmospheric air.

Some state programs indirectly related to improvement of atmospheric air could be mentioned as well. For instance, State Program on Development of Railway Transport System in the Republic of Azerbaijan in 2010-2014 includes measures for increase of passenger transportation by railway and enhancement of railway infrastructure, which is indirectly aimed at decreasing the number of personal cars in traffic, thus, reducing the emissions discharged into the air. State Program on Social Economic Development of Baku and its Settlements for 2014-2016 and Socio Economic Development of Regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan for 2014-2018 involves extensive greening, State Program on Use of Alternative and Renewable Energy Sources creates an opportunity to significantly reduce emissions discharged into the air by energy industry through stimulation of use of alternative energy in Azerbaijan.

Although all the aforementioned strategies and state programs have positively influenced the air quality in Azerbaijan to some extent, there is still a need for comparatively specific approach in this field. Hence, preparation of a National Strategy specifically designated improve air quality and constitute phased measures is required. This strategy should address air pollutants list and set interim targets. Through such specific strategy, Azerbaijan could effectively resolve its most urgent problems of air quality management and policy.


Despite the continuous implementation on international standards during the last five years, the national air quality legislation still remains poorly developed.  Slightly modified Soviet environmental standards, approaches and definitions still comprise essential part of national air quality legislation. At the same time those are accountable for obsolescence of the domestic legislation. The absence of national strategies and action plans with specifically defined objects and targets impedes further development as well.

Generally, main legislative and policy shortcomings could be classified under five groups. Namely, they are standards and targets on pollutant emissions, monitoring and assessment, pollution prevention, public awareness and international cooperation.

Standards on air pollutant emissions are mostly based on GOSTs. Mentioned standards do not include pollutants such as PM10, PM2.5, ground level ozone, which are highly harmful for human health. Also the standards’ measurement system based on MACs and averaging time does not reflect the most recent scientific evidence. Lack of ecological norms prevents adequate assessment of the air pollution impact on ecosystems and environment as a whole.

Air quality monitoring, inventory and assessment also require urgent changes in policy and legislative approach. Institutional simplification and capacity building of a whole monitoring system, application of EMEP inventory and modeling approach, capacity building activities on the monitoring system of emissions from mobile sources, application of automatic sampling, all these should be considered as primary goals.

Introduction of the BAT and IPPC concept through specific legislation will lead to the better management of air quality in the country. Also the SEE’s exact role in the emission limit setting needs to be clarified while EIA dualism should be replaced with the modern concept of EIA.

Public awareness is an integral part of the environmental rights concept and environmental management. Therefore, the requirements and principles of the Aarhus Convention need to be delivered through effective mechanisms within national legislation. It should be noted that, the MENR publishes information on the current state of air quality via its official website on a regular basis. However, the reports cover air pollution levels only in the major seven cities and do not include any long-term prognosis on air quality. Hence, public information on the state of air quality should be published in a more detailed way with consideration of short-term and long-term prognosis on air quality within the country.

Finally, international cooperation and the comprehensive implementation of CLRTAP’s principles and concepts would be a valuable support to the improvement of the air quality legislation in Azerbaijan.

6.Legislative proposals and policy recommendations.

Based on conclusions, the beneath legislative and policy proposals could be listed in the following order:

Targets and standards:

  • Set long-term and short-term targets for pollutants with consideration of PM5, PM10, ground-level ozone;
  • Introduce national standards, including the updated list of pollutants for hygienic and ecological norms;
  • Harmonize pollutants’ limit values based on WHO AQG with consideration to interim measures;
  • Introduce specific emission limit values for stationary sources based on the industry type and the pollution scale.

Monitoring and assessment:

  • Finance phased capacity building activities of the monitoring system;
  • Implement advanced methods of assessment with consideration of EMEP/EEA Air Pollutant Emission Inventory Guidebook;
  • Increase the number of observation posts with automatic sampling based on population density.

Pollution prevention:

  • Replace EIA dualism by introducing a new binding document on EIA procedure;
  • Define BAT concept within national legislation;
  • Harmonize SEE with EIA within the legislation.

Public awareness:

  • Publish detailed information on regular basis on air quality which must cover the territory of the whole country;
  • Prepare and publish short-term and long-term prognosis on air quality

International arrangements:

  • Continue and enhance cooperation with CLTRAP parties.
  • Review of possible ratification of CLTRAP Protocols on Persistent Organic Pollutants also on Heavy Metals.


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Decree of CM N90/01.07.2004

  • ‘On list of sources requiring application of technical norm and allowable limit of emission.’ Decree of CM N 63/15.04.2002
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  • ‘On definition of hygiene, ecological norms of air quality and allowable level of physical impact to ambient air.’ Decree of CM N59/13.05.2003
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Decree of CM N 159/17.10.2002

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MENR Order N 228/18.05.2009

  • ‘Regulation on state technical inspection of transport and its trailers’

Decree of CM N40/ 15.03.1999

  • ‘Rules on inspection of passenger cars and lorries’ compliance with ecological requirements including pre-license card issuing and quarterly technical, exploitation and security control’ Decree of CM N82/20.05.2009
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  • The 1994 Oslo Protocol on Further Reduction of Sulfur Emissions.
  • The 1998 Aarhus Protocol on Heavy Metals
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Acronyms, units and symbols

AEL                            Allowable emission limit

AQG                           Air quality guidelines

BAT                            Best available technique

CLRTAP                     Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution

CM                              Cabinet of Ministries

EIA                             Environmental Impact Assessment

EMEP                          European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme

ENPI                           European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument

EU                              European Union

IEL                              Interim emission limit

IPPC                            Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control

LOAEL                       Lowest observed adverse effect level

MAC                           Maximum allowable concentration

MENR                         Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources

MH                             Ministry of Health

NH3                             Ammonia

NOAEL                       No observed adverse effect level

NOX                            Nitrogen oxides

PEE                             Public Ecological Expertise

PM                              Particulate matter

POP                             Persistent organic pollutant

SCSMP                        State Committee on Standardization, Metrology and Patent

SEE                             State ecological expertise

SSC                             State Statistical Committee

STP                             State Traffic Police

UNECE                       United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

VOC                           Volatile organic compound

WHO                          World Health Organization

SO2                             Sulfur dioxide

μg/m3                          Microgram(s) per cubic metre