Greenhouse gas emissions from transport in Europe

Greenhouse gas emissions from the EU’s transport sector increased steadily between 2013 and 2019, a trend that diverges significantly from those in other sectors during that period. Preliminary estimates for 2020 indicate a substantial drop in transport emissions, due to decreased activity during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is anticipated that transport emissions will rebound after 2020. National projections compiled by the EEA indicate that even with measures currently planned in the Member States, domestic transport emissions will only drop below their 1990 level in 2029. International transport emissions (aviation and maritime) are projected to continue increasing.

Published: ‒ 25min read

Figure 1. Greenhouse gas emissions from transport in Europe
YearYear,HistoricalGHGHistorical greenhouse gas emissionsemissions,ProjectionsProjections 'with existing measures'Projections 'with additional measures'with existing measures(WEM),Projectionswith additional measures(WAM)
1990,672,,
1991,681,,
1992,702,,
1993,706,,
1994,711,,
1995,724,,
1996,746,,
1997,756,,
1998,785,,
1999,802,,
2000,798,,
2001,812,,
2002,821,,
2003,831,,
2004,849,,
2005,848,,
2006,856,,
2007,864,,
2008,845,,
2009,822,,
2010,819,,
2011,808,,
2012,778,,
2013,773,,
2014,779,,
2015,794,,
2016,812,,
2017,826,,
2018,828,,
2019,835,818,817
2020,729,749,745
2021,,767,749
2022,,786,754
2023,,795,750
2024,,803,744
2025,,809,738
2026,,796,718
2027,,783,699
2028,,768,677
2029,,754,657
2030,,737,634
2031,,725,617
2032,,713,600
2033,,700,583
2034,,688,566
2035,,675,549
2036,,665,532
2037,,655,515
2038,,646,499
2039,,637,482
2040,,628,466
2041,,,
2042,,,
2043,,,
2044,,,
2045,,,
2046,,,
2047,,,
2048,,,
2049,,,
2050,,,
1990672
1991681
1992702
1993706
1994711
1995724
1996746
1997756
1998785
1999802
2000798
2001812
2002821
2003831
2004849
2005848
2006856
2007864
2008845
2009822
2010819
2011808
2012778
2013773
2014779
2015794
2016812
2017826
2018828
2019835818817
2020729749745
2021767749
2022786754
2023795750
2024803744
2025809738
2026796718
2027783699
2028768677
2029754657
2030737634
2031725617
2032713600
2033700583
2034688566
2035675549
2036665532
2037655515
2038646499
2039637482
2040628466
2041
2042
2043
2044
2045
2046
2047
2048
2049
2050

The EU’s domestic transport emissions increased by 0.8% between 2018 and 2019. According to preliminary estimates, they dropped by 12.7% in 2020, because of the drastic decrease in transport activity during the Covid-19 pandemic. For comparison, in the years following the economic crisis a decade ago, emissions decreased by 1-3% per year.

National projections indicate that Member States expect a significant rebound in transport emissions after 2020. Without the implementation of additional measures, an increase could be observed until 2025, and the reduction expected thereafter would still leave transport emissions in 2030 around 10% above 1990 levels. If Member States implement the additional measures planned to reduce transport emissions, these would peak in 2022 and be reduced thereafter. 2030 emissions would then reach a level 6% below 1990 levels. Most planned policies and measures in the transport sector focus on promoting low-carbon fuels or electric cars, as well as encouraging a modal shift to public transport.


Figure 2. Greenhouse gas emissions from transport in the EU, by transport mode and scenario
YearDomestic AviationRoad transportRailwaysDomestic navigationInternational aviationInternational maritime transportEU-27 projections WEM Domestic AviationEU-27 projections WAM Domestic AviationEU-27 projections WEM Road TransportationEU-27 projections WAM Road TransportationEU-27 projections WEM RailwaysEU-27 projections WAM RailwaysEU-27 projections WEM Domestic NavigationEU-27 projections WAM Domestic NavigationEU-27 projections WEM International aviationEU-27 projections WEM International maritime transport
1990100100100100100100
199198.43098156101.490159388.69918516102.841341398.5275549298.39692836
1992100.1798845105.091297887.72059116101.6714829105.557364299.75327121
199398.5137546106.017627983.4721467996.49340175110.7296624100.639175
1994101.7372591106.902956179.8587516197.23329916115.6508916101.0230843
1995109.192206108.865612477.5039848993.28805593122.0793318100.6750004
1996118.3108687112.074092374.0635495897.66804751127.4297776107.4441271
1997125.6012412113.74052171.7148104995.55787204132.5384401116.5365189
1998131.4121924118.207475168.00182697100.2272706139.9097828121.4354521
1999139.8880623120.935992963.0723319496.54502496151.526581118.3461906
2000146.1832894120.471875164.5357146986.18692626157.1820179125.6826355
2001141.4820819122.857472957.1152347488.3163889155.8664516130.1874632
2002140.0711666124.385423157.2379409487.18544184151.1101414136.0425874
2003138.5188139125.948733756.3941246889.23810293157.8211618138.5048275
2004142.3864747128.65711955.5016518289.76496202166.9275761146.6758245
2005144.4167662128.414866649.6855005888.69477776176.9955637150.595145
2006145.12795129.671084548.9016637690.16925692186.1891091161.1256041
2007148.3403623131.197616550.7685824686.11973422194.8625168168.3902321
2008144.399206128.215538449.0147453283.14561822197.8996427166.4282175
2009137.4112354124.979844643.2491985382.61988973181.7433056148.0940233
2010135.9051176124.470978843.1929323982.16908253184.9999847147.1168294
2011134.1107776123.148937743.4461728574.02923652189.5894426147.6289841
2012125.7760724118.734784542.0149350871.38654444187.1882989136.5591293
2013116.0499938118.268388839.5073421165.10927307188.8438768128.5248019
2014113.4587234119.656672136.0603472561.82865466192.7421942125.01602
2015113.7408492121.914119735.770579864.02665258199.9653774127.3547886
2016118.2978141124.62122735.4152905767.09759195211.8772915130.7710811
2017122.8160328126.629851835.0507074571.76553926228.4223551133.1036527
2018128.1885252126.764872833.1769283274.73809907239.8190437135.6450044
2019130.1678657127.835906632.1212528775.80634001244.8400829136.2627409122.763252122.7784306125.2259676125.059860229.4558759329.4541753876.4753846476.46641214234.2649893136.141401
2020111.999706275.5191896175.503455115.2570124114.61413529.2328536228.7498038870.3683179969.71323306185.4037856133.741438
202182.108043581.93291626117.9875688115.127031729.4771335728.7179543871.7949697371.16373674192.9562516134.7651861
202290.7026115990.36809171120.7510931115.697868531.5390682330.5153170873.8449724573.23759175219.0221344136.5553538
202394.7542820394.26036951122.0431606114.874722331.8506414530.5611920675.0298698474.37251226229.4091809138.3399286
202498.7962663898.14296123123.1704272113.874707931.9872276130.4323665576.1616861575.5300413239.566602140.1219697
2025102.830158102.0174602124.1499809112.74390732.070136430.2444085977.3239873676.7180551249.3879671141.8517994
2026103.0100116102.1651346121.9630039109.534282932.1367287930.0991691978.0557832377.0921196250.9577437142.5758349
2027103.3345012102.457445119.8094465106.381180131.3276496129.0791947778.6911170877.36972204252.8943877143.2996597
2028103.513697102.6044615117.3764899102.956144531.2410121428.7937866479.3416934577.66256701254.3863639144.023273
2029103.8302971102.8888825115.140113999.7171877131.1910948228.5407194680.0500162278.01315833256.2500727144.7467045
2030103.8748123102.9012184112.36755595.8760896131.0691881628.2102995280.5630402178.16845093257.3021743145.4895866
2031104.1627957102.9341494110.350519493.1473759731.3757165428.0365946180.9767865777.84739073260.5374372146.0214662
2032104.4499863102.9662876108.34754290.4882272131.6720065727.8525741281.3616067277.49740432262.1612578146.5535177
2033104.7363454102.9975941106.3075387.7668509431.9623243527.6625068181.7396541277.1406452263.7331559147.0857578
2034105.0196289103.0258251104.295891985.105410432.2520994527.471843982.1279574976.79414211265.3193998147.6182036
2035105.3032573103.0544011102.279301282.4190304832.5441521427.2834262482.5265614776.45793967266.8085284148.1508719
2036105.7116191103.1335785100.649138779.6799550332.9461226426.8427527282.5773235476.36987904268.3571627148.7449635
2037106.1188946103.211669699.0523310476.9382696733.3465864826.4005687982.6254799776.27921278269.7752904149.3147655
2038106.5236122103.287202997.5020816474.2829880333.746845125.9581861682.6810779876.1959881271.1110747149.8848419
2039106.9283197103.36272696.0053849171.6244923534.1460923825.5148064182.7253494576.10143688272.4912313150.4552092
2040107.3326055103.437827494.5771919969.0900428334.5436160625.0697251282.7337657175.97103045273.9087021151.0258847

In addition to domestic transport, international aviation and international maritime sectors contribute to overall emissions related to transportation. GHG emissions from these sectors have increased since 1990. Among the domestic transport categories, only emissions from domestic navigation and railways have decreased since 1990. Furthermore, only road transport emissions are projected to decrease until 2030.

Road transport constitutes the highest proportion of overall transport emissions (in 2019 it emitted 72% of all domestic and international transport GHG). As a majority of existing and planned measures in the Member States focus on road transport, this share is expected to decrease as road transport decarbonises faster than other transport modes. The largest increases up to 2030 are projected in the aviation sector, followed by international maritime transport, as they are not prioritised by national policies. These sub-sectors are therefore expected to constitute a higher proportion of transport sector emissions in the coming years.

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a significant reduction in transport emissions in 2020, and particularly affected aviation. International aviation emissions were 54% lower in 2020 than in 2019. However, a drop in emissions due to a pandemic is likely temporary. Air traffic activity is projected to rise again from 2021 and flight numbers are expected to return to 2019 levels by 2024 at the earliest.

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