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Total greenhouse gas (GHG) emission trends and projections (CSI 010/CLIM 050) - Assessment published Jun 2014

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Generic metadata


Climate change Climate change (Primary topic)

eu ghg inventory
DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 010
  • CLIM 050
Temporal coverage:

Key policy question: What is the progress in Europe towards international commitments regarding GHG emissions?

Key messages

  • In 2012 EU GHG emissions decresed by 19.2 % since 1990. Compared to 2011 GHG decreased in the majority of key sectors, with the exception of public electricity and heat production and residential and commercial.
  • Almost all EU Member States are well on track towards achieving its commitments under the first period of the Kyoto Protocol.
  • EU-15 average emissions between 2008 and 2012 were 11.8 % below base-year levels.
  • In the EU, average emissions covered by the EU emission trading system (ETS) between 2008 and 2012 were 11 % below 2005 levels. 
  • In all EU Member States except Luxembourg and Poland, emissions under the ESD (not covered by the EU ETS) were below their 2013 target in 2012.

Sectoral GHG emissions by IPCC sector

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Absolute change from 1990
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Emissions share per main sectors in 2012
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Data sources: Explore chart interactively

Key assessment

According to the official data submitted to the UNFCCC in 2012 GHG emissions amounted to 4 522Mt CO2 eq. in the EU-28, of which about 80% accounts for the emissions of the EU-15 (3619 Mt CO2 eq.)(Figure 1).

Between 2011 and 2012 GHG emissions have decreased in most of the main categories. Energy accounted for 65% of this emission reduction. The 1.1 % decrease in CO2 emissions from energy in EU-28 in 2012 came along with economic recession across the EU as a whole. Half the EU member states experienced negative economic growth in 2012. In the other half, positive economic growth in 2012 was lower than in 2011. The winter in Europe was on average colder in 2012 than in 2011 leading to higher heating demand and emissions from households. However, higher residential emissions did not offset much lower emissions in other sectors such as transport and industry. Also, the increase in coal use in 2012 did not offset a much larger decrease in the consumption of oil natural gas. There was also a substantial increase in renewable energy in 2012, continuing the long-term trend observed since 1990. A detailed description of the 2011-2012 changes in GHG emissions is provided in the EEA analyis ‘Why did greenhouse gas emissions decrease in the EU between 2011 and 2012?’.

Between 1990 and 2012, total GHG emissions:

  • Decreased by 19.2% in the EU-28 (1 082 Mt CO2 eq.)
  • Decreased by 15.1% in the EU-15 (642 Mt CO2 eq.)

The emission reduction of 15.1% (646 Mt CO2 eq.) in 2012 since its base year’s levels, and an average reduction of -11.8% during the whole 1st Commitment period (CP1, 2008-2012) indicates that the EU-15 is in compliance with its common -8% target, although full clarity on the final compliance will only be available in 2015.

According to the latest ‘Trends and Projections’ report, published in October 2013, with the current set of existing measures in place, the EU-28 is projected to reach a level in 2020 which is 21% below 1990 levels, which is below its 20 % unilateral reduction target (including emissions from international aviation).  

At a sectoral level, the largest GHG emission reductions between 1990 and 2012 have been observed in the manufacturing industries and construction IPCC sector (327 Mt CO2 eq or 38.1%) and in the energy industries IPCC sector (267 Mt CO2 eq or 15.9%), in particular for emissions related to the production of electricity and heat. Emissions from the residential/commercial sector have also fallen substantially, despite the growth in the number of private households and the increase in population. This decrease in emissions was mainly due to the increased use of gas and biomass compared to the use liquid and solid fuels.

Transport emissions increased continuously between 1990 and 2007 and have decreased in the last five years. In 2012 CO2 emissions from transport had increased by 14.1% compared to 1990 and accounted for 19.7% of total EU-28 GHG emissions. CO2 emissions from road transportation is the main category accounting for more than 90% of the total emissions from this sector (excluding emissions from international aviation and shipping). Emissions from international aviation and maritime transport increased by 278 Mt CO2 eq between 1990 and 2012. EU GHG emissions from international aviation remained lower than those from the shipping sector, but have been growing more rapidly.

In 2012, GHG emissions from the industrial processes IPCC sector were 30.6 % below 1990 levels. This was mainly due to the decrease of CO2 emissions from cement and iron & steel production (by 28.0 Mt and 30.4 Mt CO2 respectively) and the decrease of N2O emissions from chemical industry (104.0 Mt CO2 eq). However HFC emissions have been continuously increasing since 2000. This can be explained by their increased use in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, in replacement of ozone-depleting CFCs, which were gradually phased out in the 1990s.

The agriculture and waste IPCC sectors have also experienced important changes since 1990, with reduction of 24% and 31.5%, respectively. These two sectors accounted in 2012 for 10.3% and 3.1% of total EU GHG emissions, respectively. The main reductions from these sectors were due to reduced fertiliser use, leading to decreased levels of N2O emissions and inproved recovery of landfill gas, which led to lower emissions of CH4.

Figure 2 presents the change per IPCC sector between 1990 and 2012, as well as the contribution of each main sector to the total GHG emissions in 2012. A detailed description of the 1990-2012 emission trends is provided in the EEA analyis ‘Why did greenhouse gas emissions decrease in the EU between 1990 and 2012?’.

Specific policy question: What is the progress in Europe towards domestic (internal) commitments regarding GHG emissions?

Base year and average 2008-2012 GHG emissions

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Data sources: Explore chart interactively

EU Trends of ETS and non-ETS emissions

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Distance of non-ETS emissions from ESD targets

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Data sources: Explore chart interactively

Specific assessment

Current progress of EU countries towards their Kyoto targets

The EU-decrease in GHG emissions fully reflects the mitigating efforts of its Member States.

Almost 50% of the net EU-28 decrease in GHG emissions in 2012 results from the emission reduction in Germany and the United Kingdom (25.5% and 25.2% respectively, compared to 1990 levels). The main reason for the favourable trend in Germany were increasing efficiency in power and heating plants, as well as the economic restructuring of the five new Länder after German reunification. In the UK the liberalising of energy markets and the subsequent fuel switch from oil and coal to gas have led to the important decrease in emissions. On the other end, in eight Member States 2012 emissions levels were higher than in 1990. The largest increases have been observed in Spain (20%), despite the rapid deployment of renewable energy technologies.

Twenty-six EU Member States (all except Cyprus and Malta), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland have individual GHG reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol CP1. Most of these countries had limited or reduced their GHG emissions below their target level by the end of the first commitment period (Figure 3). 

The EU-15, i.e. the 15 pre-2004 EU Member States has a common 8% reduction target to be achieved collectively under the ‘burden-sharing agreement’, which sets differentiated emission reduction targets for each EU-15 Member State. With average 2008-2012 GHG emissions lower than base-year emissions by 505.3 Mt CO2 eq (-11.8%), the EU-15 is well on track towards achieving its target.

The overall progress of the countries will be presented in the EEA technical report ‘Progress towards 2008-2012 Kyoto targets in Europe’, which is planned for publication in summer 2014.

EU progress towards the 2020 targets

Under the ‘Climate and Energy Package’, adopted in 2009, the EU committed to a unilateral emission reduction target of 20% by 2020 compared to 1990 which corresponds to a 14% decrease from 2005 levels. The main two instruments for achieving this target are:

  1.  the EU Emission Trading System (EU ETS), with a sub-target of 21% reduction in 2020 from 2005 levels, and
  2.  the Effort Sharing Decision (ESD), which defines national targets for the non ETS sectors (mainly households and services, emissions from transport, waste and agriculture) and has a EU sub-target of 10 % emission reduction in 2020 from 2005 levels.

Average 2008-2012 ETS emissions were on average 9% lower than in 2005 in the EU-27 (Croatia entered the EU ETS in 2013). In 2012 the share of ETS emissions in total GHG emissions was 41% (Figure 4).  

The progress of the ETS sector towards its 2020 target will be further analysed in October 2014, together with the publication of the annual Trends and Projections report.

Progress of EU countries towards their ESD targets

Under the ESD, Member States are required to limit their greenhouse gas emissions not covered by the EU ETS between 2013 and 2020 by meeting binding annual limits. The annual targets – known as annual emission allocations (AEAs) - follow a straight line between a defined starting point in 2013 and the target for 2020.

The assessment of current progress towards the ESD targets compares the 2012 non-ETS emissions with the 2013 and 2020 national targets. According to the latest inventory data, all Member States except for Luxembourg and Poland were below their 2013 target in 2012 (Figure 5).

Projections reported by Member States show that a number of them will need to strengthen their efforts in order to achieve their 2020 target. Member States can still meet their targets through the use of flexibility options provided by the ESD, whereby transfers of AEAs between years and between Member States are allowed, as well as the limited use of project-based credits from two of the flexible mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol: the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and the Joint Implementation.

In July 2014, Member States will report approximated GHG inventories for the year 2013. This data will allow for a comparison of 2013 emission levels with 2013 ESD targets. This analysis, together with a detailed assessment of progress towards climate and energy targets in the EU, will be presented in in the EEA 'Trends and Projections report'. This report is scheduled to be published in October 2014.

Data sources

More information about this indicator

See this indicator specification for more details.

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Spyridoula Ntemiri


EEA Management Plan

2014 1.3.2 (note: EEA internal system)


Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 1 year in April-June (Q2), October-December (Q4)

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
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