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Greenhouse gas emission trends (CSI 010/CLIM 050) - Assessment published May 2013

Indicator Assessment Created 23 May 2013 Published 29 May 2013 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:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom

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

Key messages

In 2011, EU-27 greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 3.3 % compared to 2010. This was mainly due to the milder winter of 2011 in many countries, leading to lower heating demand from the residential and commercial sectors. In general, emissions from natural gas combustion fell, while emissions resulting from solid fuel consumption increased due to higher coal consumption in 2011 compared to 2010 levels.

This decrease in emissions continues the overall decreasing trend since 2004, with the exception of 2010, when emissions temporarily increased due to increased economic growth in many countries coupled with a colder winter. With respect to 1990 levels, EU‑27 emissions have decreased by 18.4 % (Figure 1). At a sectoral level, emissions decreased in all main emitting sectors except transport and production and consumption of fluorinated gases (F-gases), where they increased considerably in percentage terms. CO2 emissions from public electricity and heat production decreased by 15.9% compared to 1990.

In the EU-15, 2011 GHG emissions decreased by 4.2 % compared to 2010 – a decrease of 159.6 Mt CO2-eq in absolute values. This implies that EU‑15 greenhouse gas emissions were approximately 14.7 % below the 1990 level in 2011 or 14.9 % below the base-year level. CO2 emissions from public electricity and heat production are also decreased by 9.3% 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  the EEA's 2012 report on Greenhouse gas emission trends and projections and will be updated in October 2013.

Greenhouse gas emissions by EU Member State: Change 2010 – 2011

Note: Greenhouse gas emissions by EU Member State: Absolute change 2010-2011

Data source:
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Key assessment

2011 greenhouse gas emissions

In 2011, total greenhouse gas emissions, excluding emission and removals from land-use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) were:

  • 4 550 Mt COeq. in the EU-27;
  • 3 631 Mt COeq. in the pre-2004 EU Member States (EU-15).

In 2011, the EU-15 accounted for 79.8 % of total EU-27 greenhouse gas emissions. The largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-27 were Germany (20.1%), the United Kingdom (12.1 %), France (10.7 %), Italy (10.7 %), and Poland (8.8 %).

2010-2011 trends

Between 2010 and 2011, total greenhouse gas emissions, excluding LULUCF:

  • decreased by 3.3 % (155.0 Mt CO2-eq.) in the EU-27;
  • decreased by 4.2 % (159.6 Mt CO2-eq.) in the EU-15.

In absolute terms, emissions decreased most in the United Kingdom (-41.3 Mt CO2-eq.), France (-28.7 Mt CO2-eq.) and Germany (-27.0 Mt CO2-eq.), accounting for about 62% of total EU-27 net decrease (Figure 2).

The energy sector is the main contributor to this decrease, mainly due to the effect of the milder winter, which contributed to lower demand for heating in almost all EU Member States.

Emission reduction from electricity and heat production has been quite significant, in particular in the United Kingdom and France. In both countries, the reduction in the demand for electricity was accompanied by greater use of nuclear power and lower use of gas (UK) and coal (France) for electricity generation. In Germany, higher temperatures appear to be one of the main reasons for the strong reduction, as CO2 emissions from households and services decreased by more than 15.6% (-104 Mt in absolute terms). Reduced emissions have also been reported in manufacturing industries, excluding iron and steel category, especially by Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and UK. The main reasons are the decline in the cement production (Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy) but also a shift from oil to natural gas in the UK manufacturing industry.

At the opposite side, only few EU Member States have increased emissions in 2011 compared to 2010. Bulgaria (+ 9.6%), Romania (+ 5.8%) and Estonia (+ 4.8%) are the countries reporting the largest relative emission increases in 2011, while Spain has also marginally increased its level of emissions by +0.5% (an absolute increase of 1.8 Mt CO2-eq).       

At EU level, the use of renewable energy sources has experienced an overall decrease in 2011, mainly due to the contraction of the hydroelectricity production by 16%, while wind and solar energy continued to grow strongly.

1990-2011 trends

Between 1990 and 2011, total greenhouse gas emissions, excluding LULUCF:

  • decreased by 18.4 % (1,024.2 Mt CO2-eq.) in the EU-27;
  • decreased by 14.7 % (623.8 Mt CO2-eq.) in the EU-15;

The 1990-2011 trend in total EU-27 greenhouse gas emissions is dominated by the two largest emitters, Germany and the United Kingdom, accounting for about one third of EU-27 GHG emissions. These two Member States have achieved total emission reductions in 2011 of 549 Mt of CO2-eq compared to 1990.

The main reasons for the favorable trend in Germany were increasing efficiency in power and heating plants, and the economic restructuring of the five new Länder after German reunification. The reduction of GHG emissions in the United Kingdom was primarily the result of liberalising energy markets in the 1990s and the subsequent fuel switches from oil and coal to gas in electricity production, and N2O emission reduction measures in the production of adipic acid.

Significant changes were also observed in Romania (- 121.1 Mt CO2-eq), France (- 70.9 Mt CO2-eq.) and Spain (+67.7 Mt CO2-eq.)

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 was not been as strong in the EU-15 countries during 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, with GHG levels reaching a maximum in 2004 and continuously decreasing since (with the exception of 2010). In relative terms, between 1990 and 2011, emissions decreased most in Latvia (-56.3 %), Lithuania (-55.7 %), and Romania (-49.5 %) while emissions increased most in Malta (+50.6 %), Cyprus (+50.3 %), Spain (+23.9 %), and Portugal (+14.8 %).

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, 2010-2011 and total GHG emissions by sector in the EU-27, 2011

Note: Absolute change of GHG emissions by sector in the EU-27, 2010-2011 and total GHG emissions by sector in the EU-27, 2011

Data source:
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Absolute change of GHG emissions by gas in the EU-27, 2010 - 2011 and total GHG emissions by gas in the EU-27, 2011

Note: Absolute change of GHG emissions by gas in the EU-27, 2010 - 2011 and total GHG emissions by gas in the EU-27, 2011

Data source:
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Absolute change in emissions by sector in EU-27, 1990 -2011

Note: Absolute change in emissions by sector in EU-27, 1990 -2011

Data source:
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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 2011, greenhouse gas emissions due to energy supply and use, including transport, represent about 79.4 % of total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-27 (80 % for the EU-15). Emissions from agriculture account for 10.2 % of total emissions, followed by industrial processes (7.3 %) and waste (2.9%) (Figure 3).

2010-2011 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 decreased by 4.9 % in 2011, due to significant reductions of CO2 emissions from the households and services sector and from energy industries.

  • The residential and commercial sectors contributed most to lower emissions in the EU in 2011. The key reason for the 104 Mt (82 of which from residential) decrease in emissions was the milder winter in almost all EU countries in 2011, which reduced the demand for heating, particularly by households.
  • Emissions from manufacturing industries and construction have decreased by 11.5 Mt of CO2, due to significant decreases in almost all manufacturing sectors. In general the consumption of liquid and gaseous fuels in industry has decreased but was partially counterbalanced by an increased use of solid fuels and biomass.
  • Heat and electricity production remains the largest contributor to GHG emissions in the EU, accounting for 26.6 % of total GHG emissions in 2011. CO2 emissions from public electricity and heat production decreased by -1.6 % in 2011 (19.8 Mt), driven by the significant decrease in use of liquid and gaseous fuels in the sector, part of which was caused by the low demand for heating supplied via distributed systems from district heating and combined heat and power thermal stations. It should be noted, however, that coal use increased, resulting in slightly higher CO2 emissions per unit of fossil energy generated.
  • CH4 emissions from fugitive emissions increased slightly (0.34 %), mainly due to the increase of coal mining.

For a more detailed analysis, see  ‘Why did greenhouse gas emissions decrease in the EU in 2011? EEA analysis in brief’.



Transport accounts for 20.2 % of total emissions in 2011. Greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 1% in 2011, mainly due to COemissions from road transport (which represents more than 94 % of domestic transport emissions).

  • Between 2010 and 2011, CO2 emissions from international aviation increased by 2.7 % and CO2 emissions from international navigation (maritime transport) by 7.4%. In absolute terms, total CO2 emissions from international bunkers decreased by 14.8 Mt in 2011.
  • N2O emissions increased by about 25.5 % between 1990 and 2011 (an increase of 1.9 Mt CO2 eq). N2O emissions from gasoline cars increased in the 1990s due to the implementation of 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. In contrast, 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 increased by 0.1 Mt CO2-eq in 2011 compared to 2010.


Industrial processes

Greenhouse gas emissions (CO2, N2O and fluorinated gases) decreased by 0.9 % (2.9 Mt CO2-eq) between 2010 and 2011.

  • CO2 emissions from cement production decreased by 0.8 Mt.
  • N2O emissions from chemical industries decreased by 4.7 Mt CO2-eq, mainly driven by decreases in Belgium, France and the United Kingdom.
  • CO2 emissions from metal production decreased by approximately 2.2 Mt, mainly due to the decrease in the production of iron and steel. This follows a substantial increase in emissions in 2010 which was attributed to the recovery from the economic crisis.
  • HFCs emissions from the consumption of F-gases (HFCs are main substitutes for ozone depleting CFCs that were gradually phased out in the 1990s) increased by 3.3 %, increasing the total emissions from industrial processes by 2.6 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 decreased by 23.1% in 2011 compared to 1990, following the general declining trend observed in the past two decades. In 2011, emissions increased, due a rise of emissions from agricultural soils.

Greenhouse gas emissions from waste fell by 2.6 % in 2011 compared to 2010 (a corresponding decrease of 3.5 Mt CO2 eq), mainly due to the development of landfill gas recovery.


Overview by gas (Figure 4)

  • CO2 accounted for the largest absolute decrease (147.5 Mt) and a relative change of -3.8% in emissions in 2011 due to the decreased heating demand and the reduced liquid and gas fuels in seat and public electricity sector. About 82% of all EU greenhouse gas emissions are CO2 related, 94% stemming from fossil fuel combustion and the remaining 6% from industrial processes.
  • F-gases from industrial processes were the only group of greenhouse gases that increased significantly in 2011 (+2.9 % corresponding to a net increase of 2.5 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 7.4 % of total EU greenhouse gas emissions in 2011, and for methane (CH4), which accounted for 8.5 % of the total.

1990-2011 trends in the EU-27 

Between 1990 and 2011, greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-27 decreased in all sectors except in the transport sector and in the consumption of HFCs and SF6, where they increased significantly (an increase of 146.3 Mt CO2-eq. and of 79.4 Mt CO2-eq respectively) (Figure 5). Furthermore, CO2 emissions from international aviation and navigation increased by 95.2 % and 48.3 %, respectively. The largest absolute decrease was observed in emissions from manufacturing industries and construction and from energy production (about 289.9 Mt and 262.0 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,
  • the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and its successive reforms that indirectly contributed to CH4 emission reductions,
  • the reduction of synthetic fertilizers applied to agricultural soils (in accordance with the Nitrates Directive and other EU/national policies).

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 of approximately 7.3% between 2008 and 2009 is attributed to the effects of the economic recession, while the increase of about 111.8 Mt CO2-eq in the next year, namely 2010, is related to the economic recovery as well as to the colder winter.

    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

    2013 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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    Phone: +45 3336 7100