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Greenhouse gas emission trends (CSI 010/CLIM 050) - Assessment published Oct 2012

Indicator Assessment Created 12 Dec 2011 Published 24 Oct 2012 Last modified 21 Oct 2013, 03:13 PM
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Generic metadata


Climate change Climate change (Primary topic)

ghg emissions | eu ghg inventory | soer2010
DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 010
  • CLIM 050
Temporal coverage:
Geographic coverage:
European Union, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom

Key policy question: What progress has been made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Europe?

Key messages

In 2010, EU-27 greenhouse gas emissions increased by 2.4 % compared to 2009. This was due to the return to economic growth in many countries and a colder winter leading to an increased demand for heating. However, the increase in emissions was contained by a move from coal to natural gas and the sustained strong growth in renewable energy generation. This increase noted in 2010 follows a 7 % drop in 2009 (compared to 2008), largely due to the economic recession and, again, the increased production of renewable energy. 

With respect to 1990 levels, EU‑27 emissions were decreased by 15.4 % (Figure 1). 

At a sectoral level, emissions decreased in all main sectors except the transport one, where they increased considerably.

In the EU-15, 2010 GHG emissions increased by 2.1 % compared to 2009 – an increase of 78.5 Mt CO2 eq in absolute values. This implies that EU‑15 greenhouse gas emissions were approximately 10.6 % below the 1990 level in 2010 or 11 % below the base-year level. CO2 emissions from public electricity and heat production also decreased by 6.1% with respect to 1990. The European Union remains well on track to achieve its Kyoto Protocol target (an 8% reduction of its greenhouse gas emissions compared to base-year level, to be achieved during the period from 2008 to 2012). A detailed assessment of progress towards Kyoto targets and 2020 targets in Europe is provided in EEA's 2012 report on Greenhouse gas emission trends and projections.

Greenhouse gas emissions by EEA Country: Change 2009 – 2010

Note: Greenhouse gas emissions by EEA Country : Absolute change 2009 – 2010

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Greenhouse gas emissions in EEA-32 countries: Change 1990 - 2010

Note: Greenhouse gas emissions in EEA-32 countries: Absolute change 1990 - 2010

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Key assessment

2010 greenhouse gas emissions

In 2010, total greenhouse gas emissions, excluding emission and removals from land-use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) were:

  •  4 721 Mt COeq. in the EU-27;
  •  3 798 Mt COeq. in the pre-2004 EU Member States (EU-15).

In 2010, the EU-15 accounted for 80.4 % of total EU-27 greenhouse gas emissions. The largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-27 were Germany (19.8%), the United Kingdom (12.5 %), France (11.1 %), Italy (10.6 %), and Poland (8.5 %).

2009-2010 trends

Between 2009 and 2010, total greenhouse gas emissions, excluding LULUCF:

  • increased by 2.4 % (14 Mt COeq.) in the EU-27;
  • increased by 2.1 % (35 Mt COeq.) in the EU-15.

In absolute terms, emissions were increased most in Germany (+24.7 Mt CO2 eq.), Poland (+19.1 Mt CO2 eq.) and United Kingdom (+19.7 Mt CO2 eq.), accounting for about 56% of total EU-27 net increase (Figure 2).

The energy sector seems to be the main contributor to this increase, mainly due to the recovery from the intense economic recession of the previous years and also due to the effect of harder weather circumstances. In the case of Germany, public electricity and heat production and manufacturing industries and construction have the higher increase in absolute values, whereas in Poland emissions from the residential sector and transport have also experienced an important rise. In the United Kingdom the increase of emissions in the residential sector is the most important one (in absolute values), followed by the public electricity and heat production sector.

At the opposite side, Spain (-10 Mt CO2 eq.), Greece (-6 Mt CO2 eq.) and Portugal (-4 Mt CO2 eq.) are the countries reporting the higher absolute emission reductions in 2010, a fact that depicts the deep economic recession that these countries still face in 2010. For all three countries the most intense reductions were noted in the energy industries and in fuel combustion.

At an EU level, the increase of the use of renewables was also a key driver, at least in most of the EU countries.

In relative terms, the largest increases were observed in Estonia (+ 25%), followed by Finland (+23%) and Sweden (+11 %) while in Greece, Portugal and Spain emissions have decreased by -5 %, -5% and -3% respectively.

With respect to other EEA-32 countries, Turkey, Norway and Switzerland have increased their emissions by 9%, 5% and 3% respectively, the biggest change in absolute numbers being the increase of 32 Mt CO2 eq. in Turkey. Liechtenstein and Iceland’s emissions are at about the same levels as in 2009.

1990-2010 trends

Between 1990 and 2010, total greenhouse gas emissions, excluding LULUCF:

  • decreased by 15.4 % (862 Mt CO2-eq.) in the EU-27;
  • decreased by 10.6 % (452 Mt CO2-eq.) in the EU-15;
  • decreased by 10.9 % (641 Mt CO2-eq.) in the EEA-32.

The 1990-2010 trends in total EU-27 greenhouse gas emissions were dominated by developments in Germany (-310 Mt CO2 eq.), the United Kingdom (-174 Mt CO2 eq.) and Romania (-132 Mt CO2 eq.). Significant changes were also observed in Spain (+73 Mt CO2 eq.), Czech Republic (-57 Mt CO2 eq.) and Poland (-57 Mt CO2 eq.) (Figure 3).

In relative terms, emissions decreased strongly in the EU-27 between 1990 and 2000, mainly due to the introduction of market economies and the consequent restructuring or closure of heavily polluting and energy-intensive industries. The decrease has not been as strong in the EU-15 countries for the same period because of the economic development of southern European countries, accompanied by rising incomes, higher living standards and, consequently, higher energy demand.  However since 2000, the trends have been almost identical in the EU-15 and in the EU-27, reaching a maximum in 2004 and a minimum in 2009 directly connected to the effect of the strong economic recession in the whole of Europe.

In relative terms, between 1990 and 2010, emissions decreased most in Lithuania (-58 %), Latvia (-55 %), and Romania (-52 %) while emissions increased most in Cyprus (+68 %), Malta (+49 %) Spain (+26 %), and Portugal (+18 %).

In the other EEA member countries, the most significant trend was the +115 % increase in emissions from Turkey (+215 Mt CO2 eq.). In absolute terms, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein have also increased their emissions by 6.3 Mt CO2 eq. in total. 

Specific policy question: What are the emission changes by sector and by greenhouse gas?

Absolute change of GHG emissions by sector in the EU-27, 2009 - 2010 and total GHG emissions by sector in the EU-27, 2010

Note: Absolute change of GHG emissions by sector in the EU-27, 2009 - 2010 and total GHG emissions by sector in the EU-27, 2010

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Absolute change of GHG emissions by gas in the EU-27, 2009 - 2010 and total GHG emissions by gas in the EU-27, 2010

Note: Absolute change of GHG emissions by gas in the EU-27, 2009 - 2010 and total GHG emissions by gas in the EU-27, 2010

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Relative (%) change in emissions by sector in EU-27, 1990 -2010

Note: Relative (%) change in emissions by sector in EU-27, 1990 -2010

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Specific assessment

Greenhouse gas emissions can be viewed by country, year, gas and sector on the EEA greenhouse gas data viewer.

In 2010, greenhouse gas emissions due to energy supply and use including transport represent about 80 % of all greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-27, as well as in the EU-15. Emissions from  agriculture account for 9.8% of total emissions, followed by industrial processes (7.3%) and waste (3%) (Figure 4).

2009-2010 Trends in the EU-27: Overview by main sector and gas 

Energy supply and use (excluding transport)

Greenhouse gas emissions from energy supply and use increased by 3.92% in 2010, due to significant increases of CO2 emissions from the households and services sector and from manufacturing industries and construction.

  • The residential and commercial sector contributed most to higher emissions in the EU in 2010. The key reason for the 43 Mt increase in emissions was the cold winter in 2010, which increased demand for heating, particularly by households.
  • Emissions from manufacturing industries and construction increased by 41 Mt of CO2, mainly driven by the significant increase of the iron and steel sector (absolute increase of 33 Mt for emissions from combustion and processes).
  • Heat and electricity production remains the largest contributor to GHG emissions in the EU, accounting for 26 % of total GHG emissions in 2010. CO2 emissions from public electricity and heat production increased by +1.2 % in 2010 (an increase of almost 14.5 Mt of CO2 emissions), driven by the significant increase in fuel use in the sector, part of which was caused by the increased demand for heating supplied via distributed systems from district heating and combined heat and power thermal stations. It should be noted however that gas use increased more than coal use while oil consumption fell, resulting in lower CO2 emissions per unit of fossil energy generated.
  • CH4 emissions from fugitive emissions decreased by 0.7 %, mainly due to the decline of coal mining.

For a more detailed analysis, see  ‘Why did greenhouse gas emissions increase in the EU in 2010? EEA analysis in brief’.



Transport accounts for 19.7% of total emissions in 2010. Greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 0.5% in 2010, mainly due to CO2 emissions from road transport (which represents more than 94 % of domestic transport emissions).

  • Between 2009 and 2010, CO2 emissions from international aviation decreased by 0.1% and CO2 emissions from international navigation (maritime transport) by 5%. In absolute terms, total CO2 emissions from international bunkers decreased by 8.23 Mt in 2010.
  • N2O emissions have increased about 28% between 1990 and 2010 (an increase of about 2.3 Mt CO2 eq). N2O emissions from gasoline cars increased in the 1990s due to the implementation of the catalytic converter in the early Euro vehicles (mainly Euro 1), but decreased thereafter (for post Euro 2 vehicles). A further reduction in emissions was achieved due to the penetration of low and zero sulphur gasoline. On the other hand, N2O emissions from diesel cars increase with Euro technologies for both passenger cars and heavy duty vehicles (and in particular with the introduction of Euro V trucks). N2O emissions have increased by 0.3 Mt CO2 eq in 2010.


Industrial processes

Greenhouse gas emissions (CO2, N2O and fluorinated gases) increased by 4 % (13 Mt of CO2 eq) between 2009 and 2010.

  • CO2 emissions from cement production decreased by about 1.5 Mt.
  • N2O emissions from chemical industries decreased by 37 %, mainly due to specific measures at adipic acid production plants in Germany and France.
  • CO2 emissions from metal production have increased by approximately 12 Mt, mainly due to the increase in the production of iron and steel, as already mentioned in the Energy sector.
  • HFCs emissions from the consumption of F-gases (which are main substitute for ozone depleting CFCs that were gradually phased out in the 1990s) have increased by 5.6%, increasing the total emissions from industrial processes by 4.36 Mt CO2 eq. The use of HFCs in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment is the main contributor to this increase.


Agriculture and waste

Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture fell by 22.3% in 2010 compared to 1990, following the general declining trend. In 2010, emissions fell mainly due to a corresponding decrease of 1.3% in enteric fermentation and manure management.

Greenhouse gas emissions from waste fell by 1.3 % in 2010 compared to 2009 (a corresponding decrease of 1.9 Mt CO2 eq), mainly due to the development of landfill gas recovery.

Overview by gas (Figure 5)

  • CO2 accounted for the largest absolute increase (118.6 Mt) and a relative change of +3.1% in emissions in 2010 due to the recovery from the economic regression and also due to the higher industrial activity in most Member States.
  • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) from industrial processes were the other group of greenhouse gases that increased significantly in 2010 (+5.7%, corresponding to a net increase of 5.1 Mt CO2 eq.), continuing the long trend observed since 1990. The increase is consistent with both the general warmer climatic conditions in Europe and increased comfort standards (e.g. mobile air conditioning), as well as with the phasing out of ozone depleting CFCs in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment.
  • Emissions declined for nitrous oxide (N2O), which accounted for 7.2 % of total EU greenhouse gas emissions in 2010, and for methane (CH4), which accounted for 8.6 % of the total.

1990-2010 trends in the EU-27 

Between 1990 and 2010, greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-27 decreased in all sectors except in the transport sector, where they increased significantly (+20 %, an increase of 155.4 Mt CO2 eq.). CO2 emissions from international aviation and navigation (which are not included here) increased by 90.3 % and 34.2 %, respectively (Figure 6). The largest absolute decrease was observed in emissions from manufacturing industries and construction and from energy production (about 276 Mt and 245 Mt CO2 eq. respectively).

Most of the emissions reductions occurred in the 1990s, largely a result of:

  • increasing efficiency in power and heating plants,
  • closure of heavy polluting and energy-intensive industries,
  • the economic restructuring in eastern Germany,
  • the liberalisation of the energy market and subsequent changes in the choice of fuel used in electricity production from oil and coal to gas in the United Kingdom,
  • significant reductions in nitrous oxide emissions in the chemical industry (adipic acid production) in France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

After 1999, emissions rose again until 2004, due to increasing energy and transport demand. More solid and gaseous fuels were used for the production of public electricity and heat (whereas liquid fuels were used less). Higher transport volumes (freight and passengers) led to higher emissions from road transport, which is responsible for more than 90 % of domestic CO2 emissions from transport.

Since 2004 and up to 2008, final energy demand in the households sector and the tertiary sector in the EU‑27 has been decreasing, which has resulted in decreasing total emissions. The very abrupt decrease of emissions between 2008-2009 (relative change of -7%, resulting in an absolute reduction of about 364 Mt CO2 eq) is attributed to the effects of the economic recession, while the increase of about 111 Mt CO2 eq in the next year, namely 2010, is related to the economic recovery as well as to the colder winter, as already explained above.

    Data sources

    More information about this indicator

    See this indicator specification for more details.

    Contacts and ownership

    EEA Contact Info

    François Dejean


    EEA Management Plan

    2012 1.3.2 (note: EEA internal system)


    Frequency of updates

    Updates are scheduled twice per year in April-June (Q2) and October-December (Q4)


    European Environment Agency (EEA)
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