The EU emitted close to 5 billion tonnes (Gt) of CO2-equivalents in 2008. It contributes today around 12 % of annual global anthropogenic direct greenhouse gas emissions.
The greenhouse gas emission reductions observed in Europe over the last two decades are a combined result of the economic restructuring that occurred mainly in Eastern Europe in the 1990s, the policies and measures implemented to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as the EU emission trading scheme (EU ETS), and more recently of short-term effects of the global economic crisis.
EEA member countries collectively reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 7.5 % and per capita emissions from 10.9 to 9.3 tonnes CO2-equivalent between 1990 and 2008.
The reduction of ozone-depleting substances under the UNEP Montreal Protocol has also resulted in greenhouse gas emissions cuts significantly larger than the emission reductions that will take place under the Kyoto Protocol until 2012.
Scientific studies show that global greenhouse gas emissions should not exceed 44 to 46 Gt CO2-equivalents per year by 2020 in order to give a 50 % chance of limiting global mean temperature increase to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. The reduction pledges made under the 2009 Copenhagen Accord fall short of keeping global greenhouse gas emissions below this peak level.
The EU is making good progress towards achieving its emission reduction targets. In the EU-27, which has set an independent target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 % by 2020 as compared to 1990 levels, emissions were 11.3 % below 1990 levels in 2008 and, according to EEA estimates, 17 % below 1990 levels in 2009. In the EU-15, which has an 8 % reduction target under the Kyoto Protocol, emissions were 6.9 % below base-year levels in 2008 and, according to EEA estimates, 13 % below base-year levels in 2009.