Indicator Assessment

Greenhouse gas emission trends

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-37-en
  Also known as: CSI 010 , CLIM 050
Published 29 May 2013 Last modified 11 May 2021
29 min read
This page was archived on 25 Aug 2017 with reason: A new version has been published

In 2011, EU-27 greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 3.3 % compared to 2010. This was mainly due to the milder winter of 2011 in many countries, leading to lower heating demand from the residential and commercial sectors. In general, emissions from natural gas combustion fell, while emissions resulting from solid fuel consumption increased due to higher coal consumption in 2011 compared to 2010 levels.

This decrease in emissions continues the overall decreasing trend since 2004, with the exception of 2010, when emissions temporarily increased due to increased economic growth in many countries coupled with a colder winter. With respect to 1990 levels, EU‑27 emissions have decreased by 18.4 % (Figure 1). At a sectoral level, emissions decreased in all main emitting sectors except transport and production and consumption of fluorinated gases (F-gases), where they increased considerably in percentage terms. CO2 emissions from public electricity and heat production decreased by 15.9% compared to 1990.

In the EU-15, 2011 GHG emissions decreased by 4.2 % compared to 2010 – a decrease of 159.6 Mt CO2-eq in absolute values. This implies that EU‑15 greenhouse gas emissions were approximately 14.7 % below the 1990 level in 2011 or 14.9 % below the base-year level. CO2 emissions from public electricity and heat production are also decreased by 9.3% with respect to 1990. The European Union remains well on track to achieve its Kyoto Protocol target (an 8% reduction of its greenhouse gas emissions compared to base-year level, to be achieved during the period from 2008 to 2012). A detailed assessment of progress towards Kyoto targets and 2020 targets in Europe is provided in  the EEA's 2012 report on Greenhouse gas emission trends and projections and will be updated in October 2013.

Greenhouse gas emissions by EU Member State: Change 2010 – 2011

Note: Greenhouse gas emissions by EU Member State: Absolute change 2010-2011

Data source:

2011 greenhouse gas emissions

In 2011, total greenhouse gas emissions, excluding emission and removals from land-use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) were:

  • 4 550 Mt COeq. in the EU-27;
  • 3 631 Mt COeq. in the pre-2004 EU Member States (EU-15).

In 2011, the EU-15 accounted for 79.8 % of total EU-27 greenhouse gas emissions. The largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-27 were Germany (20.1%), the United Kingdom (12.1 %), France (10.7 %), Italy (10.7 %), and Poland (8.8 %).

2010-2011 trends

Between 2010 and 2011, total greenhouse gas emissions, excluding LULUCF:

  • decreased by 3.3 % (155.0 Mt CO2-eq.) in the EU-27;
  • decreased by 4.2 % (159.6 Mt CO2-eq.) in the EU-15.

In absolute terms, emissions decreased most in the United Kingdom (-41.3 Mt CO2-eq.), France (-28.7 Mt CO2-eq.) and Germany (-27.0 Mt CO2-eq.), accounting for about 62% of total EU-27 net decrease (Figure 2).

The energy sector is the main contributor to this decrease, mainly due to the effect of the milder winter, which contributed to lower demand for heating in almost all EU Member States.

Emission reduction from electricity and heat production has been quite significant, in particular in the United Kingdom and France. In both countries, the reduction in the demand for electricity was accompanied by greater use of nuclear power and lower use of gas (UK) and coal (France) for electricity generation. In Germany, higher temperatures appear to be one of the main reasons for the strong reduction, as CO2 emissions from households and services decreased by more than 15.6% (-104 Mt in absolute terms). Reduced emissions have also been reported in manufacturing industries, excluding iron and steel category, especially by Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and UK. The main reasons are the decline in the cement production (Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy) but also a shift from oil to natural gas in the UK manufacturing industry.

At the opposite side, only few EU Member States have increased emissions in 2011 compared to 2010. Bulgaria (+ 9.6%), Romania (+ 5.8%) and Estonia (+ 4.8%) are the countries reporting the largest relative emission increases in 2011, while Spain has also marginally increased its level of emissions by +0.5% (an absolute increase of 1.8 Mt CO2-eq).       

At EU level, the use of renewable energy sources has experienced an overall decrease in 2011, mainly due to the contraction of the hydroelectricity production by 16%, while wind and solar energy continued to grow strongly.

1990-2011 trends

Between 1990 and 2011, total greenhouse gas emissions, excluding LULUCF:

  • decreased by 18.4 % (1,024.2 Mt CO2-eq.) in the EU-27;
  • decreased by 14.7 % (623.8 Mt CO2-eq.) in the EU-15;

The 1990-2011 trend in total EU-27 greenhouse gas emissions is dominated by the two largest emitters, Germany and the United Kingdom, accounting for about one third of EU-27 GHG emissions. These two Member States have achieved total emission reductions in 2011 of 549 Mt of CO2-eq compared to 1990.

The main reasons for the favorable trend in Germany were increasing efficiency in power and heating plants, and the economic restructuring of the five new Länder after German reunification. The reduction of GHG emissions in the United Kingdom was primarily the result of liberalising energy markets in the 1990s and the subsequent fuel switches from oil and coal to gas in electricity production, and N2O emission reduction measures in the production of adipic acid.

Significant changes were also observed in Romania (- 121.1 Mt CO2-eq), France (- 70.9 Mt CO2-eq.) and Spain (+67.7 Mt CO2-eq.)

In relative terms, emissions decreased strongly in the EU-27 between 1990 and 2000, mainly due to the introduction of market economies and the consequent restructuring or closure of heavily polluting and energy-intensive industries. The decrease was not been as strong in the EU-15 countries during the same period because of the economic development of southern European countries, accompanied by rising incomes, higher living standards and, consequently, higher energy demand.  However since 2000, the trends have been almost identical in the EU-15 and in the EU-27, with GHG levels reaching a maximum in 2004 and continuously decreasing since (with the exception of 2010). In relative terms, between 1990 and 2011, emissions decreased most in Latvia (-56.3 %), Lithuania (-55.7 %), and Romania (-49.5 %) while emissions increased most in Malta (+50.6 %), Cyprus (+50.3 %), Spain (+23.9 %), and Portugal (+14.8 %).

Absolute change of GHG emissions by sector in the EU-27, 2010-2011 and total GHG emissions by sector in the EU-27, 2011

Note: Absolute change of GHG emissions by sector in the EU-27, 2010-2011 and total GHG emissions by sector in the EU-27, 2011

Data source:

Absolute change of GHG emissions by gas in the EU-27, 2010 - 2011 and total GHG emissions by gas in the EU-27, 2011

Note: Absolute change of GHG emissions by gas in the EU-27, 2010 - 2011 and total GHG emissions by gas in the EU-27, 2011

Data source:

Absolute change in emissions by sector in EU-27, 1990 -2011

Note: Absolute change in emissions by sector in EU-27, 1990 -2011

Data source:

Greenhouse gas emissions can be viewed by country, year, gas and sector on the EEA greenhouse gas data viewer.

In 2011, greenhouse gas emissions due to energy supply and use, including transport, represent about 79.4 % of total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-27 (80 % for the EU-15). Emissions from agriculture account for 10.2 % of total emissions, followed by industrial processes (7.3 %) and waste (2.9%) (Figure 3).

2010-2011 Trends in the EU-27: Overview by main sector and gas 

Energy supply and use (excluding transport)

Greenhouse gas emissions from energy supply and use decreased by 4.9 % in 2011, due to significant reductions of CO2 emissions from the households and services sector and from energy industries.

  • The residential and commercial sectors contributed most to lower emissions in the EU in 2011. The key reason for the 104 Mt (82 of which from residential) decrease in emissions was the milder winter in almost all EU countries in 2011, which reduced the demand for heating, particularly by households.
  • Emissions from manufacturing industries and construction have decreased by 11.5 Mt of CO2, due to significant decreases in almost all manufacturing sectors. In general the consumption of liquid and gaseous fuels in industry has decreased but was partially counterbalanced by an increased use of solid fuels and biomass.
  • Heat and electricity production remains the largest contributor to GHG emissions in the EU, accounting for 26.6 % of total GHG emissions in 2011. CO2 emissions from public electricity and heat production decreased by -1.6 % in 2011 (19.8 Mt), driven by the significant decrease in use of liquid and gaseous fuels in the sector, part of which was caused by the low demand for heating supplied via distributed systems from district heating and combined heat and power thermal stations. It should be noted, however, that coal use increased, resulting in slightly higher CO2 emissions per unit of fossil energy generated.
  • CH4 emissions from fugitive emissions increased slightly (0.34 %), mainly due to the increase of coal mining.

For a more detailed analysis, see  ‘Why did greenhouse gas emissions decrease in the EU in 2011? EEA analysis in brief’.



Transport accounts for 20.2 % of total emissions in 2011. Greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 1% in 2011, mainly due to COemissions from road transport (which represents more than 94 % of domestic transport emissions).

  • Between 2010 and 2011, CO2 emissions from international aviation increased by 2.7 % and CO2 emissions from international navigation (maritime transport) by 7.4%. In absolute terms, total CO2 emissions from international bunkers decreased by 14.8 Mt in 2011.
  • N2O emissions increased by about 25.5 % between 1990 and 2011 (an increase of 1.9 Mt CO2 eq). N2O emissions from gasoline cars increased in the 1990s due to the implementation of catalytic converter in the early Euro vehicles (mainly Euro 1), but decreased thereafter (for post Euro 2 vehicles). A further reduction in emissions was achieved due to the penetration of low and zero sulphur gasoline. In contrast, N2O emissions from diesel cars increase with Euro technologies for both passenger cars and heavy duty vehicles (and in particular with the introduction of Euro V trucks). N2O emissions increased by 0.1 Mt CO2-eq in 2011 compared to 2010.


Industrial processes

Greenhouse gas emissions (CO2, N2O and fluorinated gases) decreased by 0.9 % (2.9 Mt CO2-eq) between 2010 and 2011.

  • CO2 emissions from cement production decreased by 0.8 Mt.
  • N2O emissions from chemical industries decreased by 4.7 Mt CO2-eq, mainly driven by decreases in Belgium, France and the United Kingdom.
  • CO2 emissions from metal production decreased by approximately 2.2 Mt, mainly due to the decrease in the production of iron and steel. This follows a substantial increase in emissions in 2010 which was attributed to the recovery from the economic crisis.
  • HFCs emissions from the consumption of F-gases (HFCs are main substitutes for ozone depleting CFCs that were gradually phased out in the 1990s) increased by 3.3 %, increasing the total emissions from industrial processes by 2.6 Mt CO2 eq. The use of HFCs in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment is the main contributor to this increase.


Agriculture and waste

Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture decreased by 23.1% in 2011 compared to 1990, following the general declining trend observed in the past two decades. In 2011, emissions increased, due a rise of emissions from agricultural soils.

Greenhouse gas emissions from waste fell by 2.6 % in 2011 compared to 2010 (a corresponding decrease of 3.5 Mt CO2 eq), mainly due to the development of landfill gas recovery.


Overview by gas (Figure 4)

  • CO2 accounted for the largest absolute decrease (147.5 Mt) and a relative change of -3.8% in emissions in 2011 due to the decreased heating demand and the reduced liquid and gas fuels in seat and public electricity sector. About 82% of all EU greenhouse gas emissions are CO2 related, 94% stemming from fossil fuel combustion and the remaining 6% from industrial processes.
  • F-gases from industrial processes were the only group of greenhouse gases that increased significantly in 2011 (+2.9 % corresponding to a net increase of 2.5 Mt CO2 eq.), continuing the long trend observed since 1990. The increase is consistent with both the general warmer climatic conditions in Europe and increased comfort standards (e.g. mobile air conditioning), as well as with the phasing out of ozone depleting CFCs in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment.
  • Emissions declined for nitrous oxide (N2O), which accounted for 7.4 % of total EU greenhouse gas emissions in 2011, and for methane (CH4), which accounted for 8.5 % of the total.

1990-2011 trends in the EU-27 

Between 1990 and 2011, greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-27 decreased in all sectors except in the transport sector and in the consumption of HFCs and SF6, where they increased significantly (an increase of 146.3 Mt CO2-eq. and of 79.4 Mt CO2-eq respectively) (Figure 5). Furthermore, CO2 emissions from international aviation and navigation increased by 95.2 % and 48.3 %, respectively. The largest absolute decrease was observed in emissions from manufacturing industries and construction and from energy production (about 289.9 Mt and 262.0 Mt CO2 eq. respectively).

Most of the emissions reductions occurred in the 1990s, largely a result of:

  • increasing efficiency in power and heating plants,
  • closure of heavy polluting and energy-intensive industries,
  • the economic restructuring in eastern Germany,
  • the liberalisation of the energy market and subsequent changes in the choice of fuel used in electricity production from oil and coal to gas in the United Kingdom,
  • significant reductions in nitrous oxide emissions in the chemical industry (adipic acid production) in France, Germany and the United Kingdom,
  • the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and its successive reforms that indirectly contributed to CH4 emission reductions,
  • the reduction of synthetic fertilizers applied to agricultural soils (in accordance with the Nitrates Directive and other EU/national policies).

After 1999, emissions rose again until 2004, due to increasing energy and transport demand. More solid and gaseous fuels were used for the production of public electricity and heat (whereas liquid fuels were used less). Higher transport volumes (freight and passengers) led to higher emissions from road transport, which is responsible for more than 90 % of domestic CO2 emissions from transport.

Since 2004 and up to 2008, final energy demand in the households sector and the tertiary sector in the EU‑27 has been decreasing, which has resulted in decreasing total emissions. The very abrupt decrease of emissions of approximately 7.3% between 2008 and 2009 is attributed to the effects of the economic recession, while the increase of about 111.8 Mt CO2-eq in the next year, namely 2010, is related to the economic recovery as well as to the colder winter.

    Supporting information

    Indicator definition

    This indicator presents anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in Europe from 1990 onwards. It analyses the trends (total and by sector) in relation to the European Community and Member States Kyoto targets for the period 2008-2012.

    Definitions (from UNFCCC)

    Emissions: the release of greenhouse gases and/or their precursors into the atmosphere over a specified area and period of time.

    Greenhouse gases: those gaseous constituents of the atmosphere, both natural and anthropogenic, that absorb and re-emit infrared radiation.

    Sink: any process, activity or mechanism which removes a greenhouse gas, an aerosol or a precursor of a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.

    Source: any process or activity which releases a greenhouse gas, an aerosol or a precursor of a greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

    Emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases are calculated according to the Revised 1996 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (see Methodology), as agreed upon by the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC.



    All the greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol (CO2, CH4, N2O, SF6, HFCs and PFCs). This does not include the greenhouse gases that are also ozone-depleting substances and which are controlled by the Montreal Protocol (see CSI 006).

    In order to be aggregated, non-CO2 gases are weighed by their respective global warming potential and presented in CO2-equivalent units.

    Emission sources

    The indicator provides information on emissions from the main anthropogenic greenhouse gas sources, distributed by main emitting sectors (according IPCC nomenclature):

    • energy supply and use (including energy industry, fugitive emissions, energy use by industry and by other sectors, excluding the transport sector);
    • transport;
    • industry (processes, i.e. not including emissions from fossil fuel combustion for energy use);
    • agriculture;
    • waste;
    • other (non-energy).

    Unless otherwise mentioned, the indicator does not cover emissions from international bunkers (international aviation and maritime transport), which are not covered by the Kyoto Protocol. In particular, these emissions are not taken into account in the total greenhouse gas emissions reported at national and EU levels.

    Emissions from land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) are not included in total greenhouse gas emissions.

    Geographical area

    The indicator covers all 27 Member States from the European Union. Some figures also include information concerning other EEA Member States.

    Period covered

    The indicator covers annual emissions since 1990.


    Greenhouse gas emissions are expressed in 'million tonnes CO2-equivalent' (Mt CO2-eq.)


    Policy context and targets

    Context description

    The present indicator CSI 010 aims to support the European Commission's annual assessment of progress in reducing emissions in the EU and the individual Member States to achieve the Kyoto Protocol targets under the EU Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Mechanism (Council Decision 280/2004/EC concerning a mechanism for monitoring Community GHG emissions and for implementing the Kyoto Protocol).


    The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) sets an ultimate objective of stabilizing greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations 'at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system.' It also requires precise and regularly updated inventories of greenhouse gas emissions from industrialized countries. With a few exceptions, the 'base year' for tabulating greenhouse gas emissions has been set as 1990.

    The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the UNFCCC which sets binding targets for industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These amount to an average of five per cent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012. (See next section).

    The European Community (EC), as a party to the UNFCCC, reports annually on the greenhouse gas emissions within the area covered by its Member States. The Annual European Community greenhouse gas inventory and inventory report, officially submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat, is prepared on behalf of the European Commission (DG Environment) by the European Environment Agency's European Topic Centre for Air and Climate Change (ETC/ACC) supported by the Joint Research Centre and Eurostat.

    The legal basis of the compilation of the EC inventory is Council Decision No 280/2004/EC concerning a mechanism for monitoring Community greenhouse gas emissions and for implementing the Kyoto Protocol. The purpose of this decision is to:

    1. monitor all anthropogenic GHG emissions covered by the Kyoto Protocol in the Member States;
    2. evaluate progress towards meeting GHG reduction commitments under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol;
    3. implement the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol as regards national programmes, greenhouse gas inventories, national systems and registries of the Community and its Member States, and the relevant procedures under the Kyoto Protocol;
    4. ensure the timeliness, completeness, accuracy, consistency, comparability and transparency of reporting by the Community and its Member States to the UNFCCC Secretariat.


    Under the Kyoto Protocol, the EU-15 has taken on a common commitment to reducing emissions by 8 % on average between 2008 and 2012, compared to base-year emissions.

    Within this overall target, differentiated emission limitation or reduction targets have been agreed for each of the 15 pre-2004 Member States under an EU accord known as the 'burden-sharing agreement'. These targets are set out in the Annex II to the Council Decision 2002/358/EC concerning the approval, on behalf of the European Community, of the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC and the joint fulfilment of commitments thereunder.

    The EU-12 Member States (apart from Cyprus and Malta) have individual targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovak Republic and Slovenia have reduction targets of 8 % from the base year, while Hungary and Poland have reduction targets of 6 %.

    Of the additional EEA member countries, Norway and Iceland are allowed to increase emissions under the Kyoto Protocol by 1 % and 10 %, respectively, from their base-year emissions. Switzerland and Liechtenstein have reduction targets of 8 %. Turkey is a Party to the UNFCCC, but not to the Kyoto Protocol and therefore has no reduction target. Croatia, an EU candidate country which started accession negotiations with the EU in 2005, ratified the Kyoto Protocol in May 2007 and has a reduction target of 5 %.

    Base year

    Under the Kyoto Protocol, the greenhouse gas emission level in the base year is the relevant starting point for tracking progress. For most EU Member States, the base year is 1990 for carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), and 1995 for fluorinated gases (SF6, HFCs and PFCs). Five of the new Member States have base years or periods under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol that differ from 1990 for CO2, CH4 and N2O, which is possible for economies in transition.

    National Kyoto or burden-sharing targets (reduction from base-year levels)

    Kyoto Target 2008-2012





    Bulgaria [1]




    Czech Republic




    Denmark [2]












    Hungary [3]






















    Poland [4]




    Romania [5]




    Slovenia [6]








    United Kingdom


    EU-15 (pre-2004 EU Member States)


    [1] The base year for Bulgaria is 1988.

    [2] In Commission Decision 2006/944/EC determining the respective emission levels allocated to the Community and each of its Member States under the Kyoto Protocol, the respective emission levels were expressed in terms of tonnes of CO2-equivalent. In connection with Council Decision 2002/358/EC, the Council of Environment Ministers and the Commission have, in a joint statement, agreed to take into account inter alia the assumptions in Denmark's statement to the Council Conclusions of 16-17 June 1998 relating to base-year emissions in 2006. In 2006, it was decided to postpone a decision on this until after all Community and Member State initial reports have been reviewed under the Kyoto Protocol.

    The base year for Hungary is the average of 1985-1987.

    [4] The base year for Poland is 1988.

    [5] The base year for Romania is 1989.

    [6] The base year for Slovenia is 1986.

    Detailed information on base-year levels is available from EEA report on greenhouse gas emissions trends and projections in Europe.

    Related policy documents



    Methodology for indicator calculation

    The UNFCCC requires precise and regularly updated inventories of greenhouse gas emissions from industrialized countries, using comparable methodologies. To estimate anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, all countries must use the Revised 1996 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories

    In order to be agregated into one single figure, emissions of the different individual gases are translated into CO2 equivalents, using global warming potentials (GWP) as provided in the IPCC guidelines. GWP are a measure of how much a given mass of greenhouse gas is estimated to contribute to global warming.


    Global warming potential (GWP)

    carbon dioxine 1
    methane 21
    nitrous oxide 310
    sulphur hexafluoride 23900

    HFCs and PFCs comprise a large number of different gases that have different GWPs. Countries report HFC and PFC in Mt CO2-equivalent.

    All total emissions exclude greenhouse gas emissions and removals from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities.

    Methodology for gap filling

    The EC GHG inventory is compiled by using the inventory submissions of the EC Member States. If a Member State does not submit all data required for the compilation of the EC inventory, estimates for data missing for that Member State are made. In the following cases gap filling is made:

    • To complete specific years in the GHG inventory time-series for a specific Member State (for the most recent inventory year(s), for the base year or for some years of the time series from 1990 to the most recent year);
    • To complete individual source categories for individual Member States that did not estimate specific source categories for any year of the inventory time series. Gap filling methods are used for major gaps when it is highly certain that emissions from these source categories exist in the Member States concerned;
    • To provide complete background data tables for the European Community when some Member States only provided sectoral and summary tables. (In this case, the gap filling methods are used to further disaggregate the emission estimates provided by Member States.)
    • To enable the presentation of consistent trends for the EC.

    For data gaps in Member States’ inventory submissions, a gap-filling procedure is applied in accordance with the implementing provisions under Council Decision No 280/2004/EC for missing emission data. The methods used for gap filling include interpolation, extrapolation and clustering. These methods are consistent with the adjustment methods described in UNFCCC Adjustment Guidelines and in the IPCC GPG 2000.

    Methodology references

    No methodology references available.



    Methodology uncertainty

    Methodologies to estimate greenhouse gas emissions and removals

    Difference of methodologies between countries

    Since Member States use different national methodologies, national activity data or country-specificemission factors in accordance with IPCC and UNFCCC guidelines, these methodologies are reflected in the EC GHG inventory data. The EC believes that it is consistent with the UNFCCC reporting guidelines and the IPCC good practice guidelines to use different methodologies for one source category across the EC especially if this helps to reduce uncertainty and improve consistency of the emissions data provided that each methodology is consistent with the IPCC good practice guidelines.


    The IPCC suggests that the uncertainty in the total GWP weighted emission estimates, for most European countries, is likely to be better than +/- 20%. While uncertainties in the estimates of the non-CO2 gases are larger than this, the dominance of CO2, with a much lower uncertainty than 20%, in the GWP emissions results in the overall uncertainty of 20%.

    Data sets uncertainty


    The EEA uses data officially submitted by EU Member States and other EEA countries which perform their own assessment into uncertainty of reported data. In accordance with UNFCCC guidelines, the EC and its Member States use the IPCC Good practice guidance and uncertainty management in national greenhouse gas inventories, which is consistent with the Revised 1996 IPCC guidelines for national greenhouse gas inventories. The use of this good practice guidance by countries is expected to lead to higher quality inventories and more reliable estimates of the magnitude of absolute and trend uncertainties in reported GHG inventories.

    The annual EC GHG inventory report provides a section (1.7) on uncertainty evaluation. The results suggest that uncertainties at EU-15 level are between +/- 4% and 8% for total EU-15 greenhouse gas emissions. N2O emissions of agriculture soils is the source contributing most to the overall uncertainty of the EC inventory.


    Total EU-27 and EU-15 GHG emission trends are likely to be more accurate than the 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 ~ 4 to 5%. The 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.

    Rationale uncertainty

    According to the latest scientific evidence available (IPCC Fourth Assessment Report 'Climate Change 2007'):

    • Warming of the climate system is unequivocal.
    • Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. Global greenhouse gas emissions due to human activities have grown since pre-industrial times, with an increase of 70% between 1970 and 2004. Global atmospheric concentrations of CO2, methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) have increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values determined from ice cores spanning many thousands of years.
    • 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 of the AR4 Synthesis Report. In particular, a likelihood 'very likely' corresponds to a probability of occurence 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 greenhouse gas emissions for the warming of the climate system reemphasizes the relevance of monitoring and assessing greenhouse gas emission trends in Europe.

    Data sources

    Other info

    DPSIR: Pressure
    Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
    Indicator codes
    • CSI 010
    • CLIM 050
    Frequency of updates
    Updates are scheduled twice per year
    EEA Contact Info