Climate change mitigation

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Page Last modified 03 Feb 2017
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Climate change is already happening: temperatures are rising, rainfall patterns are shifting, glaciers and snow are melting, and the global mean sea level is rising. Most of the warming is very likely due to the observed increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations as a result of emissions from human activities. To mitigate climate change, we must reduce or prevent these emissions.

In order to prevent the most severe impacts of climate change, the countries that signed up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have agreed to limit the global mean surface temperature increase since pre-industrial times to less than 2 °C. To achieve this objective, global greenhouse gas emissions should peak as soon as possible and decrease rapidly thereafter. Global emissions should be reduced by 50 % compared with 1990 levels by 2050, before achieving carbon-neutrality before the end of the century. The EU supports the UNFCCC objective and, by 2050, it aims to have reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 – 95 % compared with 1990 levels. These high reduction levels take into account the lower reductions required from developing countries.


Greenhouse gases are emitted through both natural processes and human activities. The most important natural greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is water vapour. However, human activities release large amounts of other greenhouse gases, increasing the atmospheric concentrations of these gases, which in turn enhances the greenhouse effect and warms the climate. The main sources of man-made greenhouse gases are:

  • burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) in electricity generation, transport, industry and households (CO2);
  • agriculture (CH4) and land-use changes like deforestation (CO2);
  • land filling of waste (CH4);
  • use of industrial fluorinated gases.

EU policies

Several EU initiatives aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions. After having achieved its objectives under the Kyoto Protocol for the period from 2008 to 2012, the EU adopted a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 20 % below 1990 levels by 2020. To achieve this target — one of the main targets under the Europe 2020 Strategy — a cap for the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) was set at EU level, and individual national targets for emissions in sectors not covered by the ETS were set under the Effort Sharing Decision. At the same time, the EU has adopted legislation to increase the use of renewable energy, such as wind, solar, hydro and biomass, and to improve the energy efficiency of a wide array of equipment and household appliances. The EU also aims to support the development of carbon capture and storage technologies to trap and store CO2 emitted by power stations and other large installations.

As part of a framework of climate and energy policies, by 2030, the EU has committed to cut emissions in EU territory by at least 40% below 1990 levels. This is a binding target.  The European Energy Union, which aims to ensure that Europe has secure, affordable and climate-friendly energy, has the same objective.

EEA activities

By providing information on climate change in Europe, the EEA supports the implementation of legislation on climate mitigation in Europe, the evaluation of EU policies and the development of long-term strategies to mitigate climate change. EEA information — data, indicators, assessments and projections — focuses on greenhouse gas emissions trends, projections, and policies and measures in Europe.

The EEA works closely with the European Commission (DG Climate Action, DG Joint Research Centre, Eurostat), as well as with experts from its European Topic Centres on Air and Climate Change Mitigation (ETC/ACM) and with its country network (Eionet).

Key activities and products include the annual compilation and publication of the European Union greenhouse gas inventory and the annual assessment of progress of the EU and European countries towards their climate and energy targets.

The EEA is the European data centre on greenhouse gas emissions. It also maintains a database on climate change mitigation policies and measures.

Related links

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

European Commission Directorate-General for Climate Action

European Topic Centre on Air Pollution and Climate Change Mitigation


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