Greenhouse gas emission trends
Justification for indicator selection
Climate change is one of our greatest environmental, social and economic threats. The warming of the climate system is unequivocal, says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Observations show increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level. It is very likely that most of the warming can be attributed to the emissions of greenhouse gases by human activities.
Over the past 150 years, mean temperature has increased by almost 0.8 °C globally and by about 1 °C in Europe. Without global action to limit emissions, the IPCC expects that global temperatures may increase further by 1.8 to 4.0 °C by 2100. This means that temperature increase since pre-industrial times would exceed 2 °C. Beyond this threshold irreversible and possibly catastrophic changes become far more likely.
To halt climate change, global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced significantly, and policies to do so must be put in place and fully implemented.
The main sources of man-made greenhouse gases are:
- burning of fossil fuels in electricity generation, transport, industry and households;
- agriculture and land use changes like deforestation;
- land filling of waste;
- use of industrial fluorinated gases.
The present indicator CSI 010 presents total and sectoral trends of greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union and other EEA member countries, and can be used to assess progress in reducing emissions in the EU and the individual Member States (see Policy context section).
- No rationale references available
This indicator presents anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in Europe from 1990 onwards. It analyses the trends (total and by sector) in relation to the European Community and Member States Kyoto targets for the period 2008-2012.
Definitions (from UNFCCC)
Emissions: the release of greenhouse gases and/or their precursors into the atmosphere over a specified area and period of time.
Greenhouse gases: those gaseous constituents of the atmosphere, both natural and anthropogenic, that absorb and re-emit infrared radiation.
Sink: any process, activity or mechanism which removes a greenhouse gas, an aerosol or a precursor of a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.
Source: any process or activity which releases a greenhouse gas, an aerosol or a precursor of a greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.
Emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases are calculated according to the Revised 1996 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (see Methodology), as agreed upon by the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC.
All the greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol (CO2, CH4, N2O, SF6, HFCs and PFCs). This does not include the greenhouse gases that are also ozone-depleting substances and which are controlled by the Montreal Protocol (see CSI 006).
In order to be aggregated, non-CO2 gases are weighed by their respective global warming potential and presented in CO2-equivalent units.
The indicator provides information on emissions from the main anthropogenic greenhouse gas sources, distributed by main emitting sectors (according IPCC nomenclature):
- energy supply and use (including energy industry, fugitive emissions, energy use by industry and by other sectors, excluding the transport sector);
- industry (processes, i.e. not including emissions from fossil fuel combustion for energy use);
- other (non-energy).
Unless otherwise mentioned, the indicator does not cover emissions from international bunkers (international aviation and maritime transport), which are not covered by the Kyoto Protocol. In particular, these emissions are not taken into account in the total greenhouse gas emissions reported at national and EU levels.
Emissions from land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) are not included in total greenhouse gas emissions.
The indicator covers all 27 Member States from the European Union. Some figures also include information concerning other EEA Member States.
The indicator covers annual emissions since 1990.
Greenhouse gas emissions are expressed in 'million tonnes CO2-equivalent' (Mt CO2-eq.)
Policy context and targets
The present indicator CSI 010 aims to support the European Commission's annual assessment of progress in reducing emissions in the EU and the individual Member States to achieve the Kyoto Protocol targets under the EU Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Mechanism (Council Decision 280/2004/EC concerning a mechanism for monitoring Community GHG emissions and for implementing the Kyoto Protocol).
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) sets an ultimate objective of stabilizing greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations 'at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system.' It also requires precise and regularly updated inventories of greenhouse gas emissions from industrialized countries. With a few exceptions, the 'base year' for tabulating greenhouse gas emissions has been set as 1990.
The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the UNFCCC which sets binding targets for industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These amount to an average of five per cent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012. (See next section).
The European Community (EC), as a party to the UNFCCC, reports annually on the greenhouse gas emissions within the area covered by its Member States. The Annual European Community greenhouse gas inventory and inventory report, officially submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat, is prepared on behalf of the European Commission (DG Environment) by the European Environment Agency's European Topic Centre for Air and Climate Change (ETC/ACC) supported by the Joint Research Centre and Eurostat.
The legal basis of the compilation of the EC inventory is Council Decision No 280/2004/EC concerning a mechanism for monitoring Community greenhouse gas emissions and for implementing the Kyoto Protocol. The purpose of this decision is to:
- monitor all anthropogenic GHG emissions covered by the Kyoto Protocol in the Member States;
- evaluate progress towards meeting GHG reduction commitments under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol;
- implement the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol as regards national programmes, greenhouse gas inventories, national systems and registries of the Community and its Member States, and the relevant procedures under the Kyoto Protocol;
- ensure the timeliness, completeness, accuracy, consistency, comparability and transparency of reporting by the Community and its Member States to the UNFCCC Secretariat.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, the EU-15 has taken on a common commitment to reducing emissions by 8 % on average between 2008 and 2012, compared to base-year emissions.
Within this overall target, differentiated emission limitation or reduction targets have been agreed for each of the 15 pre-2004 Member States under an EU accord known as the 'burden-sharing agreement'. These targets are set out in the Annex II to the Council Decision 2002/358/EC concerning the approval, on behalf of the European Community, of the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC and the joint fulfilment of commitments thereunder.
The EU-12 Member States (apart from Cyprus and Malta) have individual targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovak Republic and Slovenia have reduction targets of 8 % from the base year, while Hungary and Poland have reduction targets of 6 %.
Of the additional EEA member countries, Norway and Iceland are allowed to increase emissions under the Kyoto Protocol by 1 % and 10 %, respectively, from their base-year emissions. Switzerland and Liechtenstein have reduction targets of 8 %. Turkey is a Party to the UNFCCC, but not to the Kyoto Protocol and therefore has no reduction target. Croatia, an EU candidate country which started accession negotiations with the EU in 2005, ratified the Kyoto Protocol in May 2007 and has a reduction target of 5 %.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, the greenhouse gas emission level in the base year is the relevant starting point for tracking progress. For most EU Member States, the base year is 1990 for carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), and 1995 for fluorinated gases (SF6, HFCs and PFCs). Five of the new Member States have base years or periods under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol that differ from 1990 for CO2, CH4 and N2O, which is possible for economies in transition.
National Kyoto or burden-sharing targets (reduction from base-year levels)
|Country ||Kyoto Target 2008-2012|
EU-15 (pre-2004 EU Member States)
 The base year for Bulgaria is 1988.
 In Commission Decision 2006/944/EC determining the respective emission levels allocated to the Community and each of its Member States under the Kyoto Protocol, the respective emission levels were expressed in terms of tonnes of CO2-equivalent. In connection with Council Decision 2002/358/EC, the Council of Environment Ministers and the Commission have, in a joint statement, agreed to take into account inter alia the assumptions in Denmark's statement to the Council Conclusions of 16-17 June 1998 relating to base-year emissions in 2006. In 2006, it was decided to postpone a decision on this until after all Community and Member State initial reports have been reviewed under the Kyoto Protocol.
 The base year for Hungary is the average of 1985-1987.
 The base year for Poland is 1988.
 The base year for Romania is 1989.
 The base year for Slovenia is 1986.
Detailed information on base-year levels is available from EEA report on greenhouse gas emissions trends and projections in Europe.
Related policy documents
Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; adopted at COP3 in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997
UNFCCC reporting guidelines on annual inventories
Methodology for indicator calculation
The UNFCCC requires precise and regularly updated inventories of greenhouse gas emissions from industrialized countries, using comparable methodologies. To estimate anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, all countries must use the Revised 1996 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories.
In order to be agregated into one single figure, emissions of the different individual gases are translated into CO2 equivalents, using global warming potentials (GWP) as provided in the IPCC guidelines. GWP are a measure of how much a given mass of greenhouse gas is estimated to contribute to global warming.
Global warming potential (GWP)
HFCs and PFCs comprise a large number of different gases that have different GWPs. Countries report HFC and PFC in Mt CO2-equivalent.
All total emissions exclude greenhouse gas emissions and removals from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities.
Methodology for gap filling
The EC GHG inventory is compiled by using the inventory submissions of the EC Member States. If a Member State does not submit all data required for the compilation of the EC inventory, estimates for data missing for that Member State are made. In the following cases gap filling is made:
- To complete specific years in the GHG inventory time-series for a specific Member State (for the most recent inventory year(s), for the base year or for some years of the time series from 1990 to the most recent year);
- To complete individual source categories for individual Member States that did not estimate specific source categories for any year of the inventory time series. Gap filling methods are used for major gaps when it is highly certain that emissions from these source categories exist in the Member States concerned;
- To provide complete background data tables for the European Community when some Member States only provided sectoral and summary tables. (In this case, the gap filling methods are used to further disaggregate the emission estimates provided by Member States.)
- To enable the presentation of consistent trends for the EC.
For data gaps in Member States’ inventory submissions, a gap-filling procedure is applied in accordance with the implementing provisions under Council Decision No 280/2004/EC for missing emission data. The methods used for gap filling include interpolation, extrapolation and clustering. These methods are consistent with the adjustment methods described in UNFCCC Adjustment Guidelines and in the IPCC GPG 2000.
No methodology references available.
EEA data references
- National emissions reported to the UNFCCC and to the EU Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Mechanism provided by Directorate-General for Environment (DG ENV) , United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
Data sources in latest figures
Methodologies to estimate greenhouse gas emissions and removals
Difference of methodologies between countries
Since Member States use different national methodologies, national activity data or country-specificemission factors in accordance with IPCC and UNFCCC guidelines, these methodologies are reflected in the EC GHG inventory data. The EC believes that it is consistent with the UNFCCC reporting guidelines and the IPCC good practice guidelines to use different methodologies for one source category across the EC especially if this helps to reduce uncertainty and improve consistency of the emissions data provided that each methodology is consistent with the IPCC good practice guidelines.
The IPCC suggests that the uncertainty in the total GWP weighted emission estimates, for most European countries, is likely to be better than +/- 20%. While uncertainties in the estimates of the non-CO2 gases are larger than this, the dominance of CO2, with a much lower uncertainty than 20%, in the GWP emissions results in the overall uncertainty of 20%.
Data sets uncertainty
The EEA uses data officially submitted by EU Member States and other EEA countries which perform their own assessment into uncertainty of reported data. In accordance with UNFCCC guidelines, the EC and its Member States use the IPCC Good practice guidance and uncertainty management in national greenhouse gas inventories, which is consistent with the Revised 1996 IPCC guidelines for national greenhouse gas inventories. The use of this good practice guidance by countries is expected to lead to higher quality inventories and more reliable estimates of the magnitude of absolute and trend uncertainties in reported GHG inventories.
The annual EC GHG inventory report provides a section (1.7) on uncertainty evaluation. The results suggest that uncertainties at EU-15 level are between +/- 4% and 8% for total EU-15 greenhouse gas emissions. N2O emissions of agriculture soils is the source contributing most to the overall uncertainty of the EC inventory.Trends
Total EU-27 and EU-15 GHG emission trends are likely to be more accurate than the individual absolute annual emission estimates, because the annual values are not independent of each other. The IPCC suggests that the uncertainty in total GHG emission trends is ~ 4 to 5%. The total GHG emission estimates are quite reliable and the limited number of interpolations used to build the indicator do not introduce much uncertainty at the EU level.
According to the latest scientific evidence available (IPCC Fourth Assessment Report 'Climate Change 2007'):
- Warming of the climate system is unequivocal.
- Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. Global greenhouse gas emissions due to human activities have grown since pre-industrial times, with an increase of 70% between 1970 and 2004. Global atmospheric concentrations of CO2, methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) have increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values determined from ice cores spanning many thousands of years.
- There is high agreement and much evidence that with current climate change mitigation policies and related sustainable development practices, global GHG emissions will continue to grow over the next few decades.
- Continued GHG emissions at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century.
- Anthropogenic warming could lead to some impacts that are abrupt or irreversible, depending upon the rate and magnitude of the climate change.
Words in bold represent calibrated expressions of uncertainty and confidence. Relevant terms are explained in the Box 'Treatment of uncertainty' in the Introduction of the AR4 Synthesis Report. In particular, a likelihood 'very likely' corresponds to a probability of occurence higher than 90 %. This uncertainty in specific outcomes is assessed using expert judgment and statistical analysis of a body of evidence (e.g. observations or model results).
The high confidence in the responsibility of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions for the warming of the climate system reemphasizes the relevance of monitoring and assessing greenhouse gas emission trends in Europe.
Short term work
Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.
Work descriptionImprovement of the completeness of the time series of countries' estimates. Further validation and checking is the responsibility of the countries and needs especially to lead to improved detailed sectoral time series of emissions. Further validation and checking within the framework of UNFCCC and EU Monitoring Mechanism, as recommended by the IPCC Good Practice Guide. + Implementation of 2006 IPCC Guidelines for the second commitment period, following appropriate UNFCCC adoption process.
No resource needs have been specified
Deadline2008/01/01 00:00:00 GMT+1
Long term work
Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.
Responsibility and ownership
EEA Contact InfoFrançois Dejean
Frequency of updates
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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