3. Progress towards Member States' greenhouse gas emission targets

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  • Under the ESD, Member States must achieve 2020 targets on GHG emissions from the sectors that are not covered by the EU ETS. These targets range from a 20 % reduction to a 20 % allowed increase compared with 2005 base-year levels. To ensure progress towards 2020 targets, the ESD also sets binding annual targets for each Member State and for each year of the 2013-2020 period. These annual targets are expressed in terms of emission budgets, as quantities of AEAs.
  • According to the EU (2017b), AEAs for the years 2017-2020 were revised in 2016 to accommodate changes in the latest greenhouse gas inventory data and ensure consistency with reported emissions under the ESD.
  • In 2015, all Member States except Malta met their annual ESD targets. For Malta, ESD emissions were higher than its ESD target (i.e. above the quantity of AEAs for that year).
  • According to preliminary estimates, four Member States (Belgium, Finland, Ireland and Malta) have exhibited emissions higher than their ESD target for 2016. These Member States may therefore need to use the flexibilities provided under the ESD to ensure compliance.
  • According to the latest projections available from Member States, with existing national policies and measures in place, 2020 ESD emissions will be lower than 2020 ESD targets in 21 Member States. For seven Member States (Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg and Malta), existing measures will not be sufficient to meet their 2020 ESD targets.
  • If no domestic measures are implemented in addition to those already included in projections, five of these seven Member States (Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany and Luxembourg) could close the projected gap between the emission target in 2020 and actual emissions by transferring surplus AEAs from the earlier years to the later years of the period 2013-2020. Two Member States (Ireland and Malta) would need to rely on additional flexibilities to close their gaps, such as transferring AEAs from other Member States.


3.1 Current progress towards targets under the Effort Sharing Decision.

3.2 Projected progress towards targets under the Effort Sharing Decision.

3.3 Cumulative gaps for 2013–2020 and use of the flexibilities provided under the Effort Sharing Decision.

3.1 Current progress towards targets under the Effort Sharing Decision

In order to achieve the EU's objective of a 20 % reduction in total GHG emissions by 2020, compared with 1990, the ESD (EU, 2009c) sets national targets for each Member State on GHG emissions not covered by the ETS (EU, 2009d) [1]. National ESD targets cover sectors such as transport, buildings, agriculture and waste management. Altogether, these sectors account for almost 60 % of total EU GHG emissions. Mitigation actions take place at national level, through a mix of EU-driven policies and measures and national initiatives. ESD targets range from 20 % reductions (Denmark, Ireland and Luxembourg) to 20 % allowed increases (Bulgaria), compared with 2005 base-year levels. Taken together, the aggregated ESD targets for 2020 represent a 9.3 % reduction at EU level compared with 2005 base-year levels. The ESD also sets annual targets for the period 2013-2020 to monitor progress across the EU, allow for corrective action and ultimately ensure the attainment of the EU's GHG emission target by 2020.

In 2015, all but one Member State exhibited ESD emissions that were below their 2015 targets (see Figure 3.1). The largest overachievements in 2015 in absolute terms were made in France (31.4 Mt CO2-eq.), Italy (31.0 Mt CO2-eq.) and Spain (27.6 Mt CO2-eq.). Ten Member States (Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden) passed their 2015 ESD target by more than 10 percentage points. Malta's emissions remained above its 2015 ESD targets by 0.1 million AEAs, which is equal to a gap of 12 %. Based on approximated estimates of ESD emissions for 2016, all but four Member States (Belgium, Finland, Ireland and Malta) are expected to have ESD emissions below their targets for that year.

To comply with the ESD, Malta has been balancing its surplus emissions by AEA purchases from Bulgaria, which had overachieved with respect to its targets.

Figure 3.1 Current progress of Member States towards their Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) targets

Sources: EEA, 2017a, 2017b, 2017c; EU, 2013a, 2013b, 2017b.

3.2 Projected progress towards targets under the Effort Sharing Decision

The latest projections reported by Member States in 2017 show that there are diverse expectations with regard to ESD emission trends for the period 2016-2020. For many Member States, projections are consistent with past trends and show decreases in ESD emissions between 2016 and 2020.

  • Fourteen countries projected a constant decrease in their ESD emissions between 2016 and 2020 (Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom).
  • Eight countries projected an increase in their ESD emissions during this period (Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Slovakia).
  • Three countries expect their emissions to first increase and then decrease (Austria, Slovenia and Spain).
  • Two countries project their emissions to first decrease and then increase (Luxembourg and Malta).
  • Lithuania's projected emissions remain nearly constant from 2016 to 2020.

Based on the latest national projections (submitted in 2017) for the period 2017-2020, 20 Member States expect that their ESD emissions will stay below their annual targets under the ESD in every year from 2017 to 2020, on the basis of the WEM scenario (see Figure 3.2).

Conversely, for eight Member States (Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg and Malta), national projections suggest that emissions could exceed their AEAs (i.e. annual ESD targets) for one or several years between 2017 and 2020 (see Table A.1.4 in Annex 1). Most of these eight Member States have rather ambitious 2020 targets under the ESD, ranging from +5 % to -20 % emission changes, compared with 2005 base-year levels.

Figure 3.2 Projected progress of Member States towards their 2020 Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) targets

Sources: EEA, 2017d; EU, 2013a, 2013b, 2017b.

3.3 Cumulative gaps for 2013–2020 and use of the flexibilities provided under the Effort Sharing Decision

ESD emission targets, expressed in quantities of AEAs, can be considered as annual emission budgets that can be partly transferred from one year to another, as well as between Member States, under certain rules defined in the ESD. It is therefore possible to define an overall emission budget under the ESD for the whole period 2013-2020 for each Member State and at EU level. As historical and projected ESD emissions at EU level are below ESD targets, an overall surplus of between 1 700 and 1 800 million AEAs is expected by 2020 at EU level (see Section A1.5 in Annex 1).

At Member State level, the size of the expected cumulative AEA surpluses or deficits by 2020 differ greatly (see Figure 3.3). The largest cumulative surpluses are projected for the United Kingdom, Italy and France. Only two Member States (Ireland and Malta) expect a deficit of AEAs over the whole period. For Ireland this is so even in the case of a WAM scenario that considers additional measures. Currently planned or further additional measures will have to be implemented in due time, or these countries will need to purchase AEAs from other Member States or international project credits.

Figure 3.3 Projected cumulative gaps with regard to Effort Sharing Decision targets, 2013-2020

Notes: A positive value represents a surplus of annual emission allocations (AEAs). A negative value represents a shortfall of AEAs. Seventeen Member States submitted a WAM scenario. For the other Member States (Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden), the WEM scenario is shown instead. Denmark submitted a WAM scenario that was identical to its WEM scenario.

Sources: EEA,2017a, 2017b, 2017c, 2017d; EU, 2013a, 2013b, 2017b.

Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Ireland and Luxembourg, and Malta, for which national projections suggest that ESD emissions will exceed ESD targets by 2020, can still meet their obligations under the ESD by enhancing national efforts to reduce their domestic emissions to levels below ESD target levels by 2020, as well as by using the flexibility provided for under the ESD (see Table A3.4), as described below:

  • For Austria, a deficit of AEAs is projected for 2020 in the WEM scenario. A WAM scenario has not been submitted. Several policies that were reported under the WAM scenario in 2015 are now included in the WEM scenario, as they have been implemented. Additional measures would still be necessary to close the gap by 2020, however Austria could also achieve its ESD targets by using AEAs accumulated between 2013 and 2015. According to the updated projection, this would be sufficient to close the gap in ESD targets by 2020.
  • For Belgium, projections indicate that deficits of AEAs could occur between 2018 and 2020 in the WEM scenario, with an estimated gap of 2.8 million AEAs in 2020. In the WAM scenario, this deficit could be reduced to 2.0 million AEAs in 2020 by implementing additional measures. In any case, according to current projections, Belgium could achieve its ESD targets for the whole period by using surplus AEAs already accumulated between 2013 and 2015.
  • Finland projects its emissions to slightly exceed allocated AEAs in the years 2019-2020 (WEM scenario) and in 2020 (WAM scenario). According to the most recent projections, surplus AEAs from previous years are sufficient to compensate for this deficit under both scenarios.
  • Germany's projections indicate a deficit of 15.6 million AEAs in 2020 under the WEM scenario and 8.1 million AEAs in the WAM scenario. This could be compensated by accumulated surplus AEAs from the years 2013-2016.
  • For Ireland, projections show deficits under both scenarios from 2016 until 2020. Transferring surplus AEAs accumulated between 2013 and 2015 would not be sufficient for Ireland to comply each year until 2020. Ireland therefore needs to successfully implement additional measures or use other flexibilities. As reported by Ireland, the additional measures that would contribute to closing the gap in ESD sectors include additional energy efficiency measures, retrofits in the industry sector and thermal energy from renewable sources. In the transport sector, additional measures anticipate increased deployment of electric vehicles, more efficient traffic movement and 8 % of fuel for road transport from renewables by 2020 (falling short of the 10 % target set in the national renewable energy action plans (NREAPs)). Additional measures are also envisaged for the buildings (commercial and residential) sector, in which retrofit schemes, increased use of renewables and building regulations could contribute towards further GHG emission savings.
  • For Luxembourg, deficits are projected for the year 2020, with a gap of 0.3 million AEAs (WEM scenario) and 0.1 million AEAs (WAM scenario) in 2020. This gap could be filled with the use of surplus AEAs from preceding years.
  • For Malta, deficits are projected for the year 2020, with a gap of 0.1 million AEAs (WEM scenario). Malta has not submitted a WAM scenario. Malta already complied with its legal obligations in relation to 2013 and 2014 by purchasing surplus AEAs from Bulgaria. According to the inventory for 2015, the proxy inventory for 2016 and the national projections for the period 2017-2020, Malta will need additional flexibility mechanisms such as purchasing AEAs from Member States that have overachieved their targets each year.

Table 3.1 summarises the minimum conditions required to stay within the 2013-2020 ESD budget. Overall, based on national projections submitted in 2017, a net surplus of between 1 700 and 1 800 million AEAs (depending on the scenario considered) could accumulate by 2020 if all unused AEAs were carried over to subsequent years within the compliance period from 2013 to 2020. This projected surplus is higher than that calculated in the 2016 assessment (1 600 to 1 760 million AEAs) (EEA, 2016). The quantity of surplus AEAs would be more than sufficient to cover the potential deficits observed or expected in a limited number of Member States.

So far, the European Commission has performed compliance checks for only the years 2013 and 2014. Malta balanced its respective surplus emissions of 0.08 Mt and 0.12 Mt by AEA purchases from Bulgaria, which had overachieved its targets. Bulgaria declared that it would disburse the financial revenues from these AEA transfers solely to subsidise and administer activities aimed at climate change mitigation or adaptation. All other Member States except Sweden transferred surplus AEAs to subsequent years. Sweden invited Member States to follow its example by increasing ambitions under the ESD through annual cancellation of surplus AEAs. No additional use of flexible mechanisms (transfer of AEAs between Member States or additional flexibility through the purchase of emission credits outside the EU) has been reported.

Table 3.1 Minimum conditions for achieving the Effort Sharing Decision budget for the period 2013-2020

Use of flexibility

2013, 2014,

historical (2016)

WEM (a)

WAM (c)

No use of flexibility mechanisms

27 Member States

24 Member States

19 Member States (b)

20 Member States

Transfer of AEAs (d) between years only


Belgium, Finland, Ireland

Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg

Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg

Additional flexibility mechanisms needed



Ireland, Malta

Ireland, Malta

(a) The 'with existing measures scenario' (WEM) includes adopted measures at the time of preparation of projections. The 'with additional measures' (WAM) scenario also includes planned measures.
(b) Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
(c) Austria and Malta did not report projections in a WAM scenario.
(d) AEA, annual emission allocation

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[1]  Consequently, there are no national targets on GHG emissions that cover total (economy-wide) emissions. LULUCF emissions are not covered by the ESD. > Back

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