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Climate change mitigation - State and impacts (Luxembourg)

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SOER Common environmental theme from Luxembourg - climate change mitigation
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 21 Mar 2015
Key message

This section covers both 'State and Impacts' and 'Drivers and Pressures'.

Climate change in Luxembourg

Annual mean temperatures for the city of Luxembourg are now above the 30-year averages for the last century. In fact, the 1951-1980, 1961-1990 and 1971-2000 mean annual temperatures – around 9°C – are now regularly exceeded: since entering the 21st century, annual mean temperatures have been between 9.3°C (2001) and 11.3°C (2007). Other meteorological stations across the country show similar results. Further analysis of the data suggests that the average air temperature in Luxembourg has also increased during the winter and this, along with longer frost-free periods, has had a significant impact on the phenology of plants and the life cycles of animals, birds and insects. Preliminary results from an ongoing study suggest that mean annual temperatures are expected to reach up to 11.6°C for the period 2071-2100 [Figure 1].

The seasonal distribution of precipitation has varied considerably over the last 130 years. This is mostly due to changes in atmospheric circulation patterns, with an increase in westerly atmospheric fluxes during winter months, which have reportedly been responsible for significant redistribution of winter rainfall totals over the past 30 years. Combined with higher air temperatures, this has led to increased flood frequency in most national river basins.

Figure 1 - Anomalies in annual air temperature for the reference period 1961-1990: Luxembourg-City

Climate change mitigation_Figure 1

Source: Centre de Recherche Public-Gabriel Lippmann, unpublished.
Note: anomalies from the reference period 1961 till 1990: long-term mean: 8.6°C.


Greenhouse gas emissions: state, key drivers and pressures

Luxembourg is a Party to the Kyoto Protocol. The related European Union burden-sharing agreement limits Luxembourg’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for the Kyoto period 2008-2012 to an average of 28 % below their 1990 level.

In 2009 [Note 1], carbon dioxide (CO2) was the main source of GHG in Luxembourg. This represented 91.5 % of the total GHG emissions calculated in CO2e (excluding LULUCF) [Note 2]. Nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4) counted for 3.8 % of the total emissions each, while fluorinated gases only accounted for 0.9 %.

The very high share of carbon dioxide is the result of a GHG emissions structure dominated by energy-related releases: in 2009, 88 % of the total GHG emissions were generated by energy production, combustion or distribution. Of that total, emissions related to agriculture only represented 5.6 % and industrial processes only 5.5 %. Other sources of GHG emissions were negligible.

One explanation of the predominance of CO2 and energy sources in the total is the very high share of road transportation-related emissions. In 2009, this source was responsible for 52 % of the total emissions from Luxembourg. Located at the heart of the main traffic axes for Western Europe, Luxembourg is a focal point for international road traffic and therefore has a high volume of road transit traffic. The latter is further increased by the large number of commuter journeys made on working days: in 2009, 147 000 people (around 30 % of the residential population) were commuting by car – see the country introduction text for an overview of the main driving forces and pressures on Luxembourg’s environment. Compared to international traffic, domestic traffic plays a relatively small role since it accounts for only one quarter of all road fuel sold in Luxembourg. Consequently, in 2009, ‘road fuel sales to non-residents’ (transit traffic, commuters and ‘fuel tourism’) represented 38 % of the total GHG emissions [Note 3] [Figure 2].


Industry (energy combustion and industrial processes) was the second main source of GHG emissions, accounting for 17.5 % of total emissions in 2009. In third place was public electricity and heat production, representing 11.7 %, as against only 1.5 % in 2001 and the fourth main source of emissions was energy combustion in buildings, representing 11.5 %. In fact, the development of combined heat-power installations, and the opening of a gas and steam power station with an electrical output of 350 MWel in 2002, has increased the weight of this source category almost tenfold within a few years. This is a perfect example of how, due to the small size of Luxembourg and of its economy, an individual project can have considerable impact on certain key environmental parameters [Figure 3a, Figure 3b].

Figure 2 - Road fuel sales: 1990-2009 in tonnes

Climate change mitigation_Figure 2

Source: Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure - Department of the Environment & Environment Agency.
Note: 2009 data are provisional.


Figures 3a&b - GHG emissions (excl. LULUCF) - sector based breakdown: 1990-2009 in Gg (1000 tonnes)
Main emitting source categories

Climate change mitigation_Figure 3a (Main)

Other source categories
Climate change mitigation_Figure 3b (Other)

Source: Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure - Department of the Environment & Environment Agency. For background data, click here.
Note: 2009 data are provisional.


Greenhouse gas emissions: past trends

Estimated total GHG emissions amounted to 12.010 million tonnes of CO2e in 2009, which is 8.8 % below the Kyoto commitment period base year value of 13.167 million tonnes of CO2e. However, 2009 emissions are still well above the annual allocated emissions under the Kyoto Protocol (9.48 million tonnes of CO2e during the period 2008-2012, i.e. 72% of 13.167 million tonnes of CO2e): they should be further reduced by 21 % to reach the Kyoto reduction target of 28 % [Figure 4a, Figure 4b]. If a distinction is made between EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) and non-ETS sectors [Note 4], the effort is more substantial: minus 29 % in the non-ETS sectors [Figure 5].

Several phases can be identified during the period 1990 to 2009:

  • from base year to 1993, Luxembourg’s emissions remained stable;
  • between 1994 and 1998, they began to decrease significantly, reaching their lowest value in 1998 when they were down by more than 30 %;
  • from 1999 up to 2004, emissions increased continuously;
  • between 2004 and 2006, the figure stabilised at around 13.2-13.3 million tonnes of CO2e;
  • from 2006 to 2008, there was a significant decrease in emissions by more than 5 %; decrease amplified in 2009 – minus 4 % compared to 2008 – notably because of the aftermaths of the financial and economic crisis [Note 5].


The evolution during this period can be explained by changes in production techniques and in the final ‘energy-mix’ consumption: less solid fuels, more natural gas and an ever-increasing amount of liquid fuel in line with the growth in transport. It goes without saying that increases or decreases in activity for certain source categories have also played a crucial role in Luxembourg’s GHG emissions trends. For example, the move from blast furnaces to electric arc furnaces in the steel industry between 1994 and 1998 explains the significant decrease in GHG emissions during that period [Figure 4a, Figure 4b, Figure 6a, Figure 6b].

Figures 4a&b - GHG emissions and removals: 1990-2009 in Gg (1000 tonnes)
Overview CO2 vs. non-CO2

Climate change mitigation_Figure 4a (CO2-nonCO2)

GHG emissions (excl. LULUCF) and Kyoto target

Climate change mitigation_Figure 4b (Kyoto)

Source: Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure - Department of the Environment & Environment Agency. For background data, click here.
a) 2009 data are provisional;
b) BOF = blast-oven furnace / EAF = electric arc furnace.


Figure 5 - GHG emissions (excl. LULUCF) - ETS and non-ETS sectors: 2005-2009 in Gg (1000 tonnes)

Climate change mitigation_Figure 5

Source: Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure - Department of the Environment & Environment Agency. For background data, click here (GHG emissions) and here (ETS).
Note: 2009 data are provisional.


Figures 6a&b - Energy supply and consumption: 1990-2009
Primary energy supply

Climate change mitigation_Figure 6a (primary)

Final energy consumption (after conversion)

Climate change mitigation_Figure 6b (final)

Source: STATEC, Statistical Yearbook, Table A.4200 and Table A.4300.
Note: 2009 data are provisional.



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