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Indicator Specification

Total greenhouse gas emission trends and projections in Europe

Indicator Specification
  Indicator codes: CSI 010 , CLIM 050
Published 18 Dec 2020 Last modified 22 Oct 2021
25 min read
This indicator presents past and projected emission trends in Europe and assesses the progress of the EU towards its international and internal GHG targets. The EU’s total GHG emissions are shown in the context of the EU’s overall climate targets and disaggregated trends are shown to illustrate the development of emissions covered by the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) and the Effort Sharing Legislation as well as from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF). Emissions from international aviation are included in the total GHG emissions and depicted separately, together with the disaggregated trends. In accordance with the UNFCCC Reporting Guidelines, the total GHG emissions do not cover emissions from international shipping, net land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) emissions and/or removals, and CO 2  emissions from the combustion of biomass (including biofuels in transport). The indicator covers all 27 Member States of the European Union and the UK for historic emission trends, future emission trends (from 2021 onwards) do not include the UK.

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)
 

Rationale

Justification for indicator selection

Climate change is one of the greatest environmental, social and economic threats and the warming of the climate system is unequivocal according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

In order to prevent the most severe impacts of climate change, countries that have signed up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed to cooperate with a view to limiting the increase in global average temperature and the resulting climate change. In this context, industrialised countries need to prepare and submit regularly updated annual inventories of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Up until 2020, the main international instrument to limit GHG emissions was the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in 1997 and set binding emission reduction targets for its signatories. It was followed by the Paris Agreement that aims at ‘keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius’. According to the IPCC Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5ºC, no or limited overshoot of 1.5 degrees Celsius requires reaching net zero around 2050. The EU’s nationally determined contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 1990, under its 2030 climate and energy framework. All key EU legislation for implementing this target was adopted by the end of 2018.

In 2020, the European Commission has put forward the 2030 Climate Target Plan to further cut net GHG emissions by at least 55% by 2030 to set the EU on a responsible path to become climate neutral by 2050. The Commission will consequently review and, where necessary, propose to revise all relevant policy instruments to deliver additional greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

In order to assess the progress of the EU towards these international and internal commitments, the historic and projected GHG emission trends are assessed and presented in this indicator.

Scientific references

  • IPCC Sixth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2014 (AR6) At regular intervals, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) prepares comprehensive Assessment Reports of scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to the understanding of human-induced climate change, potential impacts of climate change and options for mitigation and adaptation. Five Assessment Reports have been completed in 1990, 1995, 2001, 2007 and 2014. The IPCC is now in its sixth assessment cycle producing the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) with contributions by its three Working Groups and a Synthesis Report, three Special Reports, and a refinement to its latest Methodology Report. The Synthesis Report will be the last of the AR6 products, currently due for release in 2022.

Indicator definition

This indicator presents past and projected emission trends in Europe and assesses the progress of the EU towards its international and internal GHG targets.

The EU’s total GHG emissions are shown in the context of the EU’s overall climate targets and disaggregated trends are shown to illustrate the development of emissions covered by the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) and the Effort Sharing Legislation as well as from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF). Emissions from international aviation are included in the total GHG emissions and depicted separately, together with the disaggregated trends.

In accordance with the UNFCCC Reporting Guidelines, the total GHG emissions do not cover emissions from international shipping, net land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) emissions and/or removals, and COemissions from the combustion of biomass (including biofuels in transport).

The indicator covers all 27 Member States of the European Union and the UK for historic emission trends, future emission trends (from 2021 onwards) do not include the UK.

Units

This indicator is expressed in GHG emissions in 'million tonnes CO2-equivalent' (Mt CO2e). 

 

Policy context and targets

Context description

The UNFCCC sets an ultimate objective of stabilising GHG concentrations 'at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system.' The European Union, as a party to the UNFCCC, reports annually on the GHG emissions within the area covered by its Member States. The Annual European Union greenhouse gas inventory and inventory report, officially submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat, is prepared on behalf of the European Commission (DG CLIMA) by the EEA and its European Topic Centre for Climate change mitigation and energy (ETC/CME), supported by the Joint Research Centre and Eurostat.

In 2007, EU leaders committed to a 20 % reduction in EU GHG emissions by 2020 on the basis of 1990 GHG emissions. The EU 2020 Climate and Energy Package, adopted in 2009, sets a two-fold legislative framework to achieve the 20 % GHG emission reduction objective:

  • a 21 % reduction of emissions covered under the EU ETS, compared with 2005 levels, to be achieved across the whole EU and
  • an effort to reduce emissions not covered by the EU ETS by about 10 % compared with 2005 levels, shared between the EU Member States through differentiated annual national GHG targets under the ESD.

Building on the 2020 climate and energy package, the European Council adopted the 2030 climate and energy framework, which sets a target of a 40 % reduction in GHG emissions compared with 1990.

Very recently, as part of the European Green Deal, the Commission proposed to raise the 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction target, including emissions and removals, to at least 55% compared to 1990. This will enable the EU to move towards a climate-neutral economy by 2050. This new long-term objective is a key element of the European Green Deal and and in line with the EU’s commitment to global climate action under the Paris Agreement.

This indicator aims to present an assessment of the EU's progress towards its 2020, 2030 and 2050 ambitions under consideration of the trends of emissions covered under the ETS, ESD and LULUCF legislation. The indicator is based on the official GHG inventories submitted by the EEA countries and the EU to the UNFCCC, as well as on the projected GHG emissions submitted by the Member States under the Monitoring Mechanism Regulation (Regulation 525/2013, MMR).

Targets

EU greenhouse gas targets 2020

The unilateral 20 % GHG reduction target, in the context of the EU Climate and Energy Package, corresponds to a 14 % decrease in emissions between 2005 and 2020. The target is to be achieved both in the sectors covered by the EU ETS (21 % reduction in EU ETS emissions compared with 2005 levels) and in the other sectors covered by national emission targets under the ESD.

The annual ESD targets used in the indicator are consistent with the EU ETS scope for the third trading period (2013–2020), based on

  • Commission Decision 2013/162/EU of 26 March 2013 on determining Member States' annual emissions allocations for the period 2013-2020, pursuant to Decision No 406/2009/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (OJ L 90, 28.3.2013, p. 106–110) and
  • Commission Implementing Decision 2013/634/EU of 31 October 2013 on the adjustments to Member States' annual emissions allocations for the period 2013-2020, pursuant to Decision No 406/2009/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (OJ L 292, 1.11.2013, p. 19–22).

EU greenhouse gas targets 2030

In October 2015, the European Council adopted the '2030 climate and energy framework', setting a binding target to cut emissions in the EU territory by at least 40 % below 1990 levels by 2030 with emission cuts of

  • 43 % in the EU-ETS sectors (compared with 2005) and
  • 30 % in the sectors covered by Effort Sharing legislation (compared with 2005).

As part of as part of the European Green Deal, the Commission proposed to raise the 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction target, including emissions and removals, to at least 55% compared to 1990. This will enable the EU to move towards a climate-neutral economy by 2050. This new long-term objective is a key element of the European Green Deal and in line with the EU’s commitment to global climate action under the Paris Agreement.

Related policy documents

  • 2014 greenhouse gas emissions covered by Decision 406/2009/EC (the ESD)
    The Effort Sharing Decision establishes binding annual greenhouse gas emission targets for Member States for the period 2013–2020. These targets concern emissions from most sectors not included in the EU Emissions Trading System ( EU ETS ), such as transport (except aviation and international maritime shipping), buildings, agriculture and waste. The Effort Sharing Decision forms part of a set of policies and measures on climate change and energy – known as the  climate and energy package  - that will help move Europe towards a low-carbon economy and increase its energy security.
  • 2030 Climate Target Plan
    With the 2030 Climate Target Plan, the Commission proposes to raise the EU's ambition on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to at least 55% below 1990 levels by 2030. The objectives of the plan are: Set a more ambitious and cost-effective path to achieving climate neutrality by 2050; Stimulate the creation of green jobs and continue the EU’s track record of cutting greenhouse gas emissions whilst growing its economy; Encourage international partners to increase their ambition to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C and avoid the most severe consequences of climate change.
  • Commission Decision 2013/162/EU
    Commission Decision of 26 March 2013 on determining Member States’ annual emission allocations for the period from 2013 to 2020 pursuant to Decision No 406/2009/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council
  • Commission Implementing Decision 2013/634/EU
    Commission Implementing Decision of 31 October 2013 on the adjustments to Member States’ annual emission allocations for the period from 2013 to 2020 pursuant to Decision No 406/2009/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council
  • Council Decision (2002/358/EC) of 25 April 2002
    Council Decision (2002/358/EC) of 25 April 2002 concerning the approval, on behalf of the European Community, of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the joint fulfilment of commitments thereunder.
  • European Climate Law proposal
    aims to enshrine the 2050 climate-neutrality objective into EU law
  • European Council 23-24/10/2014 - Conclusions on 2030 Climate and Energy Policy Framework
    Conclusions on 2030 Climate and Energy Policy Framework The European Council endorsed 4 targets: - a binding EU target of 40% less greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 1990 - a target of at least 27% renewable energy consumption - a 27% energy efficiency increase - the completion of the internal energy market by achieving the existing electricity interconnection target of 10% and linking the energy islands - in particular the Baltic states and the Iberian Peninsula On energy security, the European Council endorsed further measures to reduce the EU's energy dependence and increase the security of its electricity and gas supplies.
  • Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
    Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; adopted at COP3 in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997
  • Paris Agreement
    The Paris Agreement. Report of the Conference of the Parties on its twenty-first session, held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015.
  • Regulation (EU) 2018/842
    REGULATION (EU) 2018/842 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 30 May 2018 on binding annual greenhouse gas emission reductions by Member States from 2021 to 2030 contributing to climate action to meet commitments under the Paris Agreement and amending Regulation (EU) No 525/2013.
  • Regulation (EU) No 525/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on a mechanism for monitoring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions
    Regulation (EU) No 525/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on a mechanism for monitoring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions and for reporting other information at national and Union level relevant to climate change and repealing Decision No 280/2004/EC Text with EEA relevance
  • The European Green Deal
    is roadmap for making the EU's economy sustainable; aims to turn climate and environmental challenges into opportunities across all policy areas
  • UNFCCC
    UNFCCC reporting guidelines on annual inventories

Key policy question

Total greenhouse gas emission trends and projections in Europe, aggregated level assessment

Specific policy question

Total greenhouse gas emission trends and projections in Europe, disaggregate level assessment

 

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

This indicator is based on the official GHG inventories submitted by the EEA countries to the EEA, as well as on the projected GHG emissions submitted by the Member States under the Monitoring Mechanism Regulation (Regulation 525/2013, MMR). The EU GHG inventory submitted by the EU to the UNFCCC is based on the same data and is also used. The EU ETS emissions, as reported to the European Commission by operators of industrial installations and aircrafts, are also used. When available, approximate estimates of the GHG emissions for the year (X-1) are also presented.

Greenhouse gases

In line with the UNFCCC reporting guidelines on annual inventories, the national inventories cover emissions and removals of the following GHGs:

- carbon dioxide (CO2), including indirect CO2;

- methane (CH4);

- nitrous oxide (N2O);

- hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs);

- perfluorocarbons (PFCs);

- suphur hexafluoride (SF6); and

- nitrogen trifluoride (NF3)

from six sectors (Energy, Industrial processes and product use, Agriculture, LULUCF, Waste and Other).

The gases do not include the GHG emissions that are also ozone-depleting substances, which are controlled by the Montreal Protocol.

In order to be aggregated, non-CO2 gases are weighted by their respective global warming potential (GWP) and presented in CO2-equivalent units. Global warming potential (GWP) is a measure of how much a given mass of a GHG is estimated to contribute to global warming on a 100-year horizon.

In accordance with the UNFCCC rules, the GWP values used in this indicator are the ones from IPCC AR4:

Gas

Global warming potential values from IPCC AR2

[before 2015]

Global warming potential values from IPCC AR4

[after 2015]

Carbon dioxide (CO2)

1

1

Methane (CH4)

21

25

Nitrous oxide (N2O)

310

298

Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)

23 900

22 800

Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3)

_

17 200

 

HFCs and PFCs comprise a large number of different gases that have different GWPs. The full list of GWPs can be found here: IPCC AR 4

Greenhouse gas inventories

For the preparation of their national inventories, countries use the methodologies of the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories.

Projected greenhouse gas emissions

For projected GHG emissions, information submitted by the EEA countries under the MMR is used. The projected GHG emissions referred to in the indicator are those reported under the 'with existing measures' scenario (WEM) and the 'with additional measures' scenario (WAM).

Emission trading system emissions

Emissions from the EU ETS are also presented in the indicator. The EU ETS runs over three trading periods: Phase I (2005-2007), Phase II (2008-2012) and Phase III (2013-2020).

In 2013, the scope of the EU ETS was expanded to include additional references to (a) the capture, transport and geological storage of GHG emissions; (b) CO2 emissions from petrochemical, ammonia and aluminium production; (c) N2O emissions from the production of nitric, adipic and glyoxylic acids; and (d) PFC emissions from aluminium production. Since 1 January 2012, aviation has also been part of the EU ETS.

Since 2013, these emissions have been calculated by the plant operators that fall under the ETS obligations in line with Regulation No 601/2012, whereas in Phase II of the EU ETS (2008-2012), the monitoring and reporting of the operators was based on Commission Decision 2004/156/EU.

Croatia entered the EU ETS on 1 January 2013.

Approximated greenhouse gas inventory

Finally, this indicator uses data and estimates from the 'Approximated GHG inventory' for the year (X-1). These 'proxy' inventories are reported by Member States to the EEA and to the Commission under the MMR by 31 July of each year, X, and are calculated at an aggregated level on the basis of the national and international information available for the year (X-1).

Methodology for gap filling

Greenhouse gas inventories (years 1990-(X-2)):

The historic emission data presented in the indicator are based on the information reported by Member States under the MMR. However, should a Member State not submit the inventory data required to compile the EU inventory, the Commission shall prepare estimates to complete the GHG inventories submitted by Member States in consultation and close cooperation with the Member States concerned. In this case, the Member State shall use the gap-filled inventory in its official submission to the UNFCCC. The basis for these gap-filling processes is described in the Commission Delegated Regulation of 12.03.2014  (http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/g-gas/monitoring/docs/c_2014_1539_en.pdf )

Projected greenhouse gas emissions (year X–2035):

In order to ensure the timeliness, completeness, consistency, comparability, accuracy and transparency of the reporting of projections by the EU and its Member States, the quality of the reported projections is assessed by the ETC/CME on behalf of the EEA. As the Member States' reporting of projections is carried out every 2 years by countries, in certain cases, projections are adjusted to ensure full consistency with historic GHG emission data from the latest GHG inventories. Where a country has not made a submission, data are gap-filled by the ETC/CME.

Approximated greenhouse gas inventory (year X-1):

Under the MMR, the Commission shall also estimate a Member State’s approximated GHG inventory if the Member State does not provide it. These estimates are provided by the EEA and are country-specific. More information on the methodology used for gap-filling is provided in the 'Approximated GHG inventory report' of each year.

Methodology references

  • Annual European Union greenhouse gas inventory and inventory report All the data used to prepare the indicator are consistent with the latest EU GHG national inventory report (NIR). The main institutions involved in the compilation of the EU GHG inventory are the Member States, the European Commission’s Directorates-General Climate Action (DG CLIMA), Eurostat, the Joint Research Centre and the European Environment Agency (EEA) and its European Topic Centre on Air Pollution and Climate Change Mitigation (ETC/CME). This report is compiled on the basis of the inventories of the EU Member States for the EU-28 (before 2020). The EU GHG inventory is the direct sum of the national inventories. 
  • 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories The 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories are the latest step in the IPCC development of inventory guidelines for national estimates of GHGs. These 2006 Guidelines build on the previous Revised 1996 IPCC Guidelines and the subsequent Good Practice reports. They include new sources and gases as well as updates to the previously published methods whenever scientific and technical knowledge have improved since the previous guidelines were issued. Since 2015, UNFCCC Parties are using the 2006 IPCC Guidelines' methodologies and reporting formats when preparing their inventories, in line with the UNFCCC reporting guidelines (Decision 24/CP.19).
  • UNFCCC reporting guidelines on annual inventories This document contains the complete updated UNFCCC reporting guidelines on annual inventories for all inventory sectors.
  • Commission Regulation (EU) No 601/2012 Commission Regulation (EU) No 601/2012 of 21 June 2012 on the monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions pursuant to Directive 2003/87/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council. The regulation sets out the rules for the monitoring and reporting of ETS emissions by plant operators, covering the scope of Phase III of the ETS.
  • IPCC Forth Assessment Report (AR4) At regular intervals, the (IPCC)  prepares comprehensive  Assessment Reports  of scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of human induced climate change, the potential impacts of climate change and options for mitigation and adaptation. Currently used GWP are based on the AR4.
 

Data specifications

EEA data references

Data sources in latest figures

 

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

Greenhouse gas inventories

(a) Difference in methodologies between countries

Since Member States use different national methodologies, national activity data or country-specific emission factors in accordance with IPCC and UNFCCC guidelines, these different methodologies are reflected in the EU GHG inventory data. The EU believes that it is consistent with the UNFCCC reporting guidelines and the 2006 IPCCC guidelines to use different methodologies for one source category across the EU territory, especially if this helps to reduce the uncertainty and improve the consistency of the emission data, provided that each methodology is consistent with the 2006 IPCC guidelines. At the same time, the EU is making an effort to promote and support the use of higher tier methodologies across Member States. At the EU level, and for most of the key categories of the EU inventory, more than 75 % of the EU emissions are calculated using higher tier methodologies, resulting in lower uncertainty rates.

(b) Global warming potential

According to the IPCC, the GWP values used in the IPCC AR4 have an uncertainty of ±35 % for the 5-95 % (90 %) confidence range.

Projected greenhouse gas emissions

The methodology proposed consists of simple additions of data reported by Member States. However, uncertainty arises from the following:

  • projections can be subject to updates that might not be reflected in the assessment if these updates were recently developed;
  • the projections taken into account are fully consistent with Member State submissions under the MMR. However, other sets of projections with different data might have been published by countries (e.g. national allocation plans, national communications to the UNFCCC).

Several countries carry out sensitivity analyses on their projections.

Approximated greenhouse gas inventory

The uncertainty ranges estimated in the approximated GHG inventories are derived by comparing the official national data submitted to the UNFCCC in year X with the proxy estimates of the same year. The uncertainty for the approximated emissions at the EU level is estimated as the weighted mean of the differences described: weighted again by the relative contribution that each Member State makes to total EU-28 emissions. More details about these methodologies are provided each year in the 'Approximated GHG inventory report'.

Data sets uncertainty

The 2006 IPCC Guidelines provide approaches on how Parties should estimate uncertainties, suggesting different values for the uncertainty of activity data and emission factors for most of the emission source categories. On the basis of this guidance, EU Member States and other EEA countries perform their own assessment of the uncertainty of reported data and provide an uncertainty analysis in the National Inventory Report to account for uncertainty per source category, as well as the total uncertainty of their national inventory.

Section (1.7) of the annual EU GHG inventory report considers the uncertainty evaluation, describing the methodology used to estimate it. The results suggest that the uncertainty level in the EU is about 6 % for total GHG emissions (including LULUCF). 

Total EU-28 GHG emission trends are likely to be more accurate than individual absolute annual emission estimates, because the annual values are not independent of each other. The IPCC suggests that the uncertainty in total GHG emission trends is approximately 4-5 %. For the EU, the trend uncertainty is estimated to be close to 1 %. Total GHG emission estimates are quite reliable and the limited number of interpolations used to build the indicator do not introduce much uncertainty at the EU level.

Uncertainties in the projections of GHG emissions can be significant but have not been assessed. 

Rationale uncertainty

 The IPCC AR4 emphasizes that:

  • Warming of the climate system is unequivocal.
  • There is high agreement and much evidence that with current climate change mitigation policies and related sustainable development practices, global GHG emissions will continue to grow over the next few decades.
  • Continued GHG emissions at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century.
  • Anthropogenic warming could lead to some impacts that are abrupt or irreversible, depending upon the rate and magnitude of the climate change.

Words in bold represent calibrated expressions of uncertainty and confidence. Relevant terms are explained in the Box 'Treatment of uncertainty' in the introduction to the AR4 Synthesis Report. In particular, 'very likely' corresponds to a probability of occurrence higher than 90 %. This uncertainty in specific outcomes is assessed using expert judgment and statistical analysis of a body of evidence (e.g. observations or model results).

The high confidence in the responsibility of anthropogenic GHG emissions for the warming of the climate system re-emphasizes the relevance of monitoring and assessing GHG emissions trends in Europe.

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Melanie Sporer

Ownership

European Environment Agency (EEA)

Identification

Indicator code
CSI 010
CLIM 050
Specification
Version id: 4

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled twice per year

Classification

DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
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