Indicator Assessment

Greenhouse gas emissions from transport in Europe

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-111-en
  Also known as: TERM 002
Published 18 Dec 2020 Last modified 18 Dec 2020
8 min read

Greenhouse gas emissions from the EU’s transport increased in 2018 and 2019 and have not followed the EU’s general decreasing emissions trend. National projections compiled by the EEA suggest that transport emissions in 2030 will remain above 1990 levels, even with measures currently planned in Member States. Further action is needed particularly in road transport, the highest contributor to transport emissions, as well as aviation and shipping, where transport demand is driving emissions upward in both absolute and relative terms.

Greenhouse gas emissions from transport in the EU

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There has been a steady overall reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the EU in recent years. However, the transport sector has not followed this general trend and, as a result, its relative contribution to overall GHG emissions in Europe has become more significant. Therefore, although action is needed in all sectors if the EU is to meet emission reduction targets, this is particularly important in the transport sector.

According to preliminary estimates, the EU’s transport emissions increased in 2019 by 0.8 % (not including shipping). This follows a 0.9 % increase in 2018. These rates of increase are the slowest since 2014.

National projections indicate that by 2030, GHG emissions from transport will decrease relatively little from current levels, and will remain higher than 1990 levels. These projected trends suggest that the transport sector is unlikely to contribute to the emission reductions needed to achieve the EU’s new targets for 2030 or to achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

Projections based on existing policy measures in EU Member States (‘with existing measures’ scenario) indicate that transport emissions will increase by 32 % by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. If the additional measures planned in national policies are considered in the projections (‘with additional measures’ scenario), the estimates for 2030 indicate that GHG emissions will increase by 17 % from 1990 levels. All transport sub-sectors will need to be much more ambitious if the sector as a whole is to contribute to the goals set out in the European Green Deal.

Greenhouse gas emissions from transport in the EU, by transport mode and scenario

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While domestic navigation and railway emissions have decreased since 1990, road transport, international maritime transport and aviation emissions have increased. Only road transport emissions are projected to decrease in the next 15 years.

Road transport constitutes the highest proportion of overall transport emissions (around 71 % in 2018), but this is expected to decrease as road transport decarbonises faster than the other transport modes (to 67 % and 63 % under the ‘with existing measures’ and ‘with additional measures’ scenarios, respectively). The largest increases up to 2030 are projected in the aviation sector, followed by international maritime transport. These sub-sectors are therefore expected to constitute a higher proportion of transport sector emissions in the coming years. Recent trends show even faster increases than projected for aviation, though the effects of COVID-19 are likely to induce a significant reduction in 2020.

Railway emissions, which only include emissions from diesel trains because the electricity used in rail transport is accounted for in the power sector, have halved since 1990, but they constitute only a small proportion of overall transport emissions (below 1 %), so this does not considerably affect the overall trend. Similarly, domestic navigation emissions have decreased by about a quarter, but they constitute under 2 % of overall transport emissions.

Supporting information

Indicator definition

This indicator shows historical greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the transport sector, as well as emissions projected up to 2035 under scenarios in which policies currently in place (‘with existing measures’) and planned (‘with additional measures’) in the EU Member States (EU-27) are implemented. The disaggregated level assessment illustrates trends and projections in key transport sub-sectors.

It covers IPCC source categories 1.A.3, 1.D.1.a and 1.D.1.b (as used in GHG emission inventories).


Greenhouse gas emissions are measured in million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2e)

Change in emission levels from 1990 (index 1990 = 100)


Policy context and targets

Context description

The European Green Deal (COM(2019) 640 finalsets out the aim to achieve a carbon neutral EU by 2050. This requires the decarbonisation of all sectors. In its proposal for the Climate Law (COM(2020) 80 final), the European Commission proposed to increase the intermediate GHG emission reduction target for 2030 to 55 %, accepted by the European Council at the end of 2020.

In December 2020, the Commission published ‘Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy’ (COM(2020) 789 final), laying out its vision to ensure that the EU transport system can achieve a green transformation.

The transport sector is responsible for nearly a quarter of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, this sector has proven difficult to decarbonise, and has not shown the same decreases in GHG emissions since 1990 as other sectors. Therefore, it is important to track this sector in detail and project changes in GHG emissions based on the reductions possible with policy measures that have already been adopted or are planned in the EU Member States.

In the implementation of the 2030 climate and energy framework, commercial aviation (all airlines operating in Europe) is covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, while the rest of the transport sector (excluding international shipping) is covered by the Effort Sharing Regulation. The indicator allows the contributions of the transport sector to meeting targets set out in both these pieces of legislation to be assessed in detail.


Targets not defined for this indicator

Related policy documents

  • 2030 Climate and Energy Framework
    EUCO 169/14 European Council (23 and 24 October 2014) ‒ Conclusions EUCO 169/14
  • European Climate Law proposal
    Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL establishing the framework for achieving climate neutrality and amending Regulation (EU) 2018/1999 (European Climate Law)
  • Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy
    COM(2020) 789 final ANNEX to the COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy – putting European transport on track for the future {SWD(2020) 331 final}
  • The European Green Deal
    Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions (COM(2019) 640 final).


Methodology for indicator calculation

The indicator uses information from three EEA data sets: the greenhouse gas emissions inventory, approximated estimates of greenhouse gas emissions and greenhouse gas emissions projections.

The aggregated level assessment uses historical and projected GHG emissions for the transport sector as a whole: this is a sum of IPCC categories 1.A.3 (transport), 1.D.1.a (international aviation) and 1.D.1.b (international maritime transport).

The disaggregated level assessment uses historical and projected GHG emissions for various transport modes: road transport (IPCC category 1.A.3.b), railway transport (1.A.3.c), domestic navigation (1.A.3.d), international maritime transport (1.D.1.b) and aviation (1.A.3.a and 1.D.1.a).

Projections cover the period 2015-2035 (the historic years in the projections show values used for calibrating the projection). Two distinct projection scenarios are developed by the Member States, based on different levels of implementation of climate mitigation policies: the ‘with existing measures’ scenario includes policies already adopted, while the ‘with additional measures’ scenario includes planned policies and national targets.

Methodology for gap filling

No methodology for gap filling has been specified. Probably this info has been added together with indicator calculation.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.



Methodology uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Data sets uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • TERM 002
Frequency of updates
Updates are scheduled once per year
EEA Contact Info


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage



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