Greenhouse gas emissions from the transport, buildings, agriculture, small industry and waste sectors, which are regulated by the EU Effort Sharing legislation, have fallen by 14% between 2005 and 2021. Preliminary estimates for 2022 show a further 3% reduction compared with 2021 levels, keeping the GHG emissions below the established emission trajectory for the year. However, more ambitious national targets for Effort Sharing emissions adopted in the context of the Fit-for-55 package will require EU countries to step up efforts. Member States’ GHG emissions are projected to fall to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030, meaning acceleration will be needed to reach the 2030 target of 40% reductions in the Effort Sharing sectors.

Figure 1. Greenhouse gas emissions trends and projections under the scope of the Effort Sharing legislation, EU-27

Greenhouse gas emissions trends and projections under the scope of the Effort Sharing legislation, EU-27

The Effort Sharing legislation covers greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from domestic transport (without aviation), buildings, agriculture, small industry and waste. These account for more than 60% of total EU GHG emissions. In addition to establishing national targets for the reduction of GHG emissions in the Member States by 2030, the Effort Sharing legislation also defines annual emission limits for the years 2021 to 2030.

Emissions under the Effort Sharing legislation were 14% lower in 2021 than in 2005, with the buildings sector accounting for the largest reduction (-21%), while the transport (-8%) and agriculture (-3%) sectors saw more modest reductions. Provisional figures for 2022 suggest a further decrease in total Effort Sharing GHG emissions by 3% compared to 2021, with buildings once again responsible for the largest reduction (-9%). At the same time, emissions from the transport sector increased (+2%). For both 2021 and 2022, GHG emissions remained below the aggregated emission limits defined by the Effort Sharing legislation for these years.

With the amendments to the Effort Sharing Regulation adopted in 2023, the EU-level GHG reduction target for 2030 increased from 29% to 40%, compared with 2005 levels; the emission limits for each year up to 2030 have also been tightened. This implies that in the upcoming years, emissions will need to decline at a significantly faster than the reduction rate observed in recent years. Based on projections submitted by Member States in March 2023, current policies and measures will not be sufficient to achieve this acceleration. Existing measures are projected to reduce GHG emissions under the Effort Sharing legislation by 26% by 2030. When considering the additional planned measures, the projected reduction reaches 32%.

Figure 2. National progress towards greenhouse gas emission targets under the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR)

Member States will collectively contribute to EU-wide emission reductions through specific binding national targets. These range from a 50% reduction compared to 2005 for some countries to a 10% decrease for others. Member States are also subject to gradually decreasing annual emission limits for each year from 2021 to 2030.

In 2021, five Member States (Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Ireland and Italy) exhibited Effort Sharing sectors emissions above their annual emission allocations (AEAs), indicating that these Member States will need to make use of the flexibilities available under the legislative framework to comply with their annual emission limits. Preliminary data suggests that in 2022, GHG emissions remained below the emission limits for most of the Member States. However not for Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, and Romania. In the coming years, an increasing number of countries project to exceed their established national emission limits.

The GHG projections for Member States in 2030, indicate that, with their current measures in place, only Greece, Portugal, and Sweden are likely to meet their Effort Sharing targets. With the addition of planned measures, Croatia, Luxembourg and Spain are also projected to meet their 2030 Effort Sharing targets. Moreover, the cumulative emissions of the Member States in the period 2021-2030 would exceed the amount of AEAs available at EU level for this period by about 3%. This indicates that Member States with a shortage of AEAs may not be able to buy enough allocations from other countries.

The GHG projections used for the above analysis were reported by Member States in March 2023, which is still early to assess the likelihood of achieving the targets under the Effort Sharing legislation. Through the update of National Energy and Climate Plans, due for June 2024, Member States can establish additional measures that result in lower projected emissions. Furthermore, if Member States perform well under the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) Regulation, a limited number of land use credits can be used to comply with their national targets under the Effort Sharing Regulation. Nonetheless, it is evident that a significant increase in the efforts is imperative to meet the increased national targets under the Effort Sharing Legislation.