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Indicator Assessment

Greenhouse gas emission intensity of fuels and biofuels for road transport in Europe

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-523-en
  Also known as: CLIM 055
Published 19 Nov 2020 Last modified 19 Nov 2020
1 min read

The EU is not on track to reduce the greenhouse gas emission intensity of fuels sold for road transport to 6 % below 2010 levels, as set out in its 2020 target. Between 2010 and 2018, the emission intensity decreased by 3.7 %, mostly due to the increased use of biofuels. Finland and Sweden are the only Member States whose emission intensities decreased by more than 6 %. If the indirect land use change effects of biofuel production are considered, the emission intensity of fuels sold in the EU actually increased between 2017 and 2018, because of the increased use of oil crops as feedstocks.

Average greenhouse gas intensity of road transport fuels in the EU, 2010-2018

Note: • Average EU values (including and excluding indirect land-use change from biofuels production) calculated on the basis of 22 Member States submissions for 2017 (all except Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain) and 28 submissions for 2018. • gCO2eq/MJ, grams of CO2 equivalents per megajoule of energy produced; GHG, greenhouse gas.

Data source:

Transport is responsible for more than 25 % of the EU’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and a major contributor to climate change. Cutting emissions from transport is pivotal to realising the ambition of having net-zero GHG emissions by 2050, as set out in the EU’s long-term strategy (EC, 2020).

To support a reduction in GHG emissions from transport, the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) (EC, 1998) sets the target that fuel suppliers should reduce the emission intensity of fuels sold in the EU by 6 % by 2020, compared with 2010. In 2017, the average emission intensity of fuels in the EU was 3.4 % lower than in 2010, thus failing to meet the indicative target of a 4 % reduction by 2017. Even by 2018, a 4 % reduction had not been achieved, with emission intensity only 3.7 % lower than in 2010. The EU is therefore not on track to meet its 2020 target.

The decrease in emission intensity of road transport fuels between 2017 and 2018 can be attributed mainly to an increase (from 4.5 % to 5.2 %) in the proportion of biofuels used, as biofuels have a lower emission intensity than fossil fuels. However, there was an increase in the emission intensity of the biofuels used between 2017 and 2018. This partly offset the benefits that could have been achieved, namely a 4 % rather than a 3.7 % reduction in emission intensity by 2018. This increase in biofuel emission intensity was due to an increase in the use of oil crops, which generally have a higher emission intensity than other feedstocks, in biofuel production.

Biofuel use has contributed to a reduction in the GHG emission intensity of road transport in the EU. However, it is important to ensure that rising demand for biofuels does not have a negative impact on land use by displacing the production of food and feed crops and driving the conversion of land — such as forests and wetlands — to agricultural land, leading indirectly to increased GHG emissions. This phenomenon is known as indirect land us change (ILUC). The FQD requires that Member States identify the feedstock from which their biofuels originate and estimate emissions resulting from ILUC for certain feedstocks.

However, emissions from ILUC are not considered for assessing compliance with the 6 % 2020 reduction target. If ILUC is taken into account, the average GHG emission intensity of fuels consumed in 2018 is only 2.1 % lower than in 2010; it even increased between 2017 and 2018 because of the increased use of oils crops.

Average greenhouse gas intensity of road transport fuels by Member State, 2010-2018

Note: • ILUC, indirect land use change. • The reduction target applies to values that exclude ILUC emissions only.

Data source:

Progress towards meeting the 2020 6 % reduction target varies widely across Member States. In 2018, Finland and Sweden were the only countries to have exceeded this target. This is because their road transport fuel mixes have relatively high proportions of biofuels (8 % in Finland and 23 % in Sweden) and, on average, the biofuels used have relatively low emission intensities (14 g CO2eq/MJ and 14.5 g CO2eq/MJ, respectively).

The two Member States that reduced their emission intensities the least between 2010 and 2018, namely Croatia (0.1 %) and Estonia (0.9 %), use fuel mixes with much lower proportions of biofuels (0.2 % in Croatia and 2.0 % in Estonia) and, in the case of Estonia, the biofuels used have much higher emission intensities (35.1 g CO2eq/MJ).

The effect that ILUC has on reductions in Member States’ emission intensities largely depends on the feedstocks used to produce biofuels. Oil crops are used extensively in Estonia and Lithuania and, if ILUC effects are considered, the GHG emission intensity of these biofuels is only marginally lower than diesel produced from fossil fuels (88.9 g CO2eq/MJ versus 95.1 g CO2eq/MJ). As a result, if ILUC is considered, these countries actually increased their road fuel emission intensities between 2010 and 2018.

Supporting information

Indicator definition

EU Member States report annually on the volumes, energy content and life cycle GHG emissions of fuels used in road transport and non-road mobile machinery, in line with their obligations under the Fuel Quality Directive 98/70/EC (FQD) Article 7a. Standards relevant to this reporting requirement are inter alia:

  • EN 228:2012
  • EN-ISO 5164:2014
  • ISO 5163:2014
  • EN 13016-1:2018  

This indicator summarises the information reported by the EU Member States — and subsequently collected, checked and compiled by the European Environment Agency together with the European Topic Centre on Climate Change Mitigation and Energy (ETC/CME) — on the volume, energy consumption and GHG intensity of fossil fuels and biofuels.

Units

gCO2eq/MJ and percentage


 

Policy context and targets

Context description

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Targets

No targets has been specified

Related policy documents

  • Directive 98/70/EC, quality of petrol and diesel fuels
    Directive 98/70/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 October 1998 relating to the quality of petrol and diesel fuels and amending Directive 93/12/EEC
  • EC, 2020, "2050 long-term strategy"
    The EU aims to be climate-neutral by 2050 – an economy with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. This objective is at the heart of the  European Green Deal  and in line with the EU’s commitment to global climate action under the  Paris Agreement .
 

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

The EEA and ETC/CME support the European Commission in the compilation, quality checking and dissemination of information reported under 7a of the FQD. Details on the reporting obligation can be found in the EEA's Reporting Obligation Database and Central Data Repository.

Methodology for gap filling

No methodology for gab filling has been specified 

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

 

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

No methodology uncertainty has been specified 

Data sets uncertainty

No dataset uncertainty has been specified 

Rationale uncertainty

No rationale uncertainty has been specified 

Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • CLIM 055
Frequency of updates
Updates are scheduled once per year
EEA Contact Info info@eea.europa.eu

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Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage

Dates