The regulatory agenda in the European Union for air pollution is reviewed from the point of view of the coatings industry. This agenda is built on three key concepts: the quantification of emissions arising from human activity (inventories), the definition of Best Available Technique (BAT), and the estimation of the total costs of an activity to society. Inventory data is used in models to estimate the maximum emissions that are compatible with politically determined air quality targets. BAT is used to set standards for industrial processes, as a means to achieving these targets. And social costs justify the control measures. The review of these concepts leads to the recommendation that the coatings industry needs to engage itself more actively in all three, to ensure that the regulatory process is sound, is based on good quality data — and that it stops short of unjustifiable controls.