Executive summary

Page Last modified 07 Nov 2017
6 min read
Progress of the European Union and its Member States towards 2020 climate and energy targets
Table of contents > Next: 1. Overall progress towards the European Union's '20-20-20' climate and energy targets


The 2017 edition of the European Environment Agency (EEA) Trends and projections in Europe report confirms that the European Union (EU) is well on track to meet its climate and energy targets for 2020. Official data for 2015 show that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have already decreased beyond the 20 % reduction target. Policies are playing an important role in driving the overall EU trends observed since 2005, in particular through a sustained increase in renewable energy use.

According to preliminary estimates for 2016, greenhouse gas emissions show only a modest decrease compared with 2015, when GHG emissions increased for the first time since 2010. The reduction in 2016 took place despite an increase in transport emissions. Primary energy consumption increased in 2016, for the second consecutive year. This increase follows a large drop in consumption in 2014, due to an exceptionally warm winter that resulted in a particularly low energy demand for heating.

The report uses official data for 2015 to look at the progress of Member States towards their individual objectives for 2020 (see Figure ES.1). Here progress is mixed: while the EU is on track, the situation differs between Member States.

  • 21 Member States are on track to meet their 2020 GHG targets under the Effort Sharing Decision (ESD), which cover national emissions from sectors outside the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). All except Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg and Malta project that their GHG emissions will be kept or reduced below their national targets in 2020, with the current set of policies and measures in place. Malta did not reach its 2015 ESD target.

EU progress towards 2030 climate and energy targets

Although the EU remains on track to achieve its 2020 targets, current efforts need to be stepped up to achieve more ambitious longer term objectives.

For example, while projections show further decreases in EU GHG emissions beyond 2020, Member States project that the pace of these reductions will slow down. The reductions currently planned fall short of the 40 % reduction target for 2030.

To achieve the EU's 2030 climate and energy targets, as well as its international commitment under the Paris Agreement, policy proposals from the Commission are currently under discussion between Member States and at the European Parliament. These proposals include a revision of the EU ETS, a proposed Effort Sharing Regulation setting binding national emission limits on sectors outside the ETS, the integration of land use and forestry in the policy framework, the recast of the Renewable Energy and the Energy Efficiency Directives, and a proposal for governance of the Energy Union.

Where voluntary national efforts will replace the binding national targets for renewables post-2020, the new governance system will aim to ensure that national policies and measures adequately support the transition to a low-carbon, competitive EU economy and safeguard the achievement of the EU-level targets in 2030.

Outlook for greenhouse gas trends in 2050

The 2017 analysis of progress towards long-term decarbonisation targets in the EU has not changed since the 2016 assessment: although the EU and its Member States are making good progress towards their short-term goals on climate and energy, they will have to intensify their efforts considerably to meet longer-term energy and decarbonisation objectives for 2050. The pace of GHG emission reductions after 2020 should actually increase in order to achieve targets, rather than slow down as is currently projected by Member States. Assuming the necessary emission cuts required to achieve the 2030 target actually take place, an even deeper reduction would still need to be achieved after 2030. This reduction will have to be two to three times greater than the decrease from current levels necessary to meet the 2030 target, which is itself greater than that achieved since 1990. In short, ambition levels need to be significantly stepped up.

Achieving the EU's long-term decarbonisation objective can take place only in the context of a major transformation of the EU's socio-technical systems such as the energy, food and mobility systems. As the effects of policies and measures often take time to materialise, action aimed at achieving the long-term targets cannot be delayed. Member States should take into consideration the long-term mitigation potential of their existing and planned measures. Few European countries have translated their national climate and energy objectives into corresponding investment needs and plans. Countries should identify and make available clear information on investment needs and priorities in order to strengthen investor confidence, increase investment attractiveness and provide certainty in terms of the direction and nature of forthcoming investable projects.

Figure ES.1. Greenhouse gas emission trends, projections and targets in the EU, 1990-2050

Sources: EEA, 2017a, 2017b, 2017c, 2017d.

About this report

The 2017 edition of the annual European Environment Agency (EEA) report, Trends and projections in Europe, provides an updated assessment of the progress of the European Union (EU) and European countries towards their climate mitigation and energy targets. The report is based mainly on national data on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, renewable energy and energy consumption for 2015, preliminary ('approximated' or 'proxy') data for 2016 and projections reported by Member States concerning expected trends in GHG emissions until 2035.

EEA reports

This report is part of an annual series of EEA reports on climate change and energy. In particular, this report is linked to EEA report, 'Trends and projections in the EU ETS in 2017', EEA report 'Approximated EU GHG inventory: Proxy GHG emission estimates for 2016', and EEA report 'Analysis of key trends and drivers in greenhouse gas emissions in the EU between 1990 and 2015'. All EEA reports are available at: eea.europa.eu.

About the EEA

The EEA is an agency of the EU. It aims to support sustainable development and to help achieve significant and measurable improvement in Europe's environment by providing timely, targeted, relevant and reliable information to policymaking agents and the public. It is supported in its work by the European environment information and observation network (Eionet), a network of 39 European countries.


This report was prepared by the EEA and its European Topic Centre on Air Pollution and Climate Change Mitigation (ETC/ACM). The ETC/ACM is a consortium of European institutes that assist the EEA in its support to EU policy in the field of air pollution and climate change mitigation.

The overall coordination of the report was carried out by Melanie Sporer (EEA) and the ETC/ACM task manager, Sabine Gores (Öko-Institut, Germany).

The authors were, in alphabetical order, Anca-Diana Barbu, François Dejean, Melanie Sporer and Mihai Tomescu (EEA); Hannes Böttcher, Hannah Förster, Sabine Gores, Anne Siemons (Öko-Institut, Germany); and Larissa Pupo Nogueira de Oliveira (Vito, Belgium).

> For sources, see the Bibliography page

 Table of contents > Next: 1. Overall progress towards the European Union's '20-20-20' climate and energy targets

Related content

Related data visualisations

Related publications

See also

European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100