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EU greenhouse gas emissions and targets

Around 10% of the greenhouse gases emitted worldwide in 2012 come from the European Union. The EU's share of global emissions is falling as Europe reduces its own emissions and as those from other parts of the world, especially the major emerging economies, continue to grow.


With measures taken at European level and by Member States at national level, the EU is well on track towards meeting its targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions both under its own internal target in the Europe 2020 Strategy and under the Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period (2013-2020). By reducing emissions since 1990 while expanding its economy, the EU has successfully shown that economic growth and emission cuts are not contradictory.

The Commission publishes annually the Kyoto and EU 2020 Progress Report, which provides information about the progress made by European Union and its Member States towards their greenhouse gas emission targets.

See the Commission 2014 Kyoto and EU 2020 Progress Reportpdf(1.88 Mb) Choose translations of the previous link  , the latest EU greenhouse gas inventory and the European Environment Agency' reports.

The EU is on track to meet its EU 2020 target

For 2020, the EU has made a unilateral commitment to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions from its 28 Member States by 20% compared to 1990 levels which is one of the headline targets of the EU 2020 strategy.

Cooling Towers © iStockphoto

According to latest estimates, total EU greenhouse gas emissions in 2013 fell by 1.8% compared to 2012, which brings them at around 19% below 1990 levels (scope of the 2009 Climate and Energy package). This keeps the EU on track to meet its 20% target by 2020.

EU GDP grew by 45% between 1990 and 2012. As a result, the greenhouse gas emissions' intensity of the EU was reduced by almost half in that period. Decoupling occurred in all Member States. The structural policies implemented in the field of climate and energy have contributed significantly to the EU emission reduction observed since 2005. The economic crisis contributed to less than half of the reduction observed during the 2008-2012 period.

Although the EU as a whole is on track to deliver as expected, 13 Member States still need additional efforts to meet domestically their 2020 targets for the non-ETS sectors. Fifteen Members States are already projected to reach these commitments with existing policies and measures. Each Member State's progress towards meeting its national emission targets, as well as the renewable energy and energy efficiency targets, is assessed every spring as part of the so-called European Semester. The Commission makes country-specific recommendations as appropriate.

The EU is on track to meet its Kyoto second period target

The EU is also on track to reduce its emissions by 20% under the Kyoto Protocol's second period, which runs from 2013 to 2020. This commitment differs in several important respects from the EU's unilateral 2020 commitment:

  • The Kyoto commitment is measured against base years, not 1990;
  • It requires the EU to keep its emissions at an average of 20% below base-year levels over the whole period, not only in 2020;
  • It differs in scope (for instance, it does not cover emissions from international aviation since these are outside the scope of the Protocol, but does cover emissions and their removals from Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF), which the unilateral commitment does not).
  • The EU and its Member States will meet the second Kyoto commitment period jointly with Iceland.

The EU over-achieves first Kyoto target

The 15 countries which were EU Member States when the Kyoto Protocol was agreed in 1997 (the 'EU-15') committed to reduce their collective emissions on average over the first commitment period (2008-2012) by 8% below base years levels (1990 in most cases). The 8% collective reduction commitment has been translated into national emission reduction or limitation targets pdf(22 kB) Choose translations of the previous link  for each of the EU-15 Member States under what is known as the "burden sharing" agreement. The 8% commitment has been achieved by a wide margin. On average for the period 2008-2012, annual emissions (without LULUCF and the use of Kyoto mechanism) were 11.8 % below base year levels.

Of the 13 countries which have joined the EU since the Kyoto Protocol was agreed, all except Cyprus and Malta have individual emission reduction commitments under the first period of the Protocol. These 11 countries will also deliver as expected.

For more information, see Kyoto Protocol Ambition Mechanism Submissionpdf(73 kB) Choose translations of the previous link  and Technical Annexpdf(667 kB) Choose translations of the previous link  .

Use of the revenues from the auctioning of ETS allowances

For the first time, the 2014 Progress Report provides data on the use of fiscal revenues pdf (114 kB) Choose translations of the previous link  from auctioning allowances in the EU Emission Trading System (ETS). This new source of revenues for Member States amounted in total to € 3.6 billion in 2013.

Member States have used or plan to use € 3 billion from these revenues or the equivalent in financial value for climate and energy related purposes, primarily to support domestic investments in the low carbon economy. This is significantly more than the 50% level recommended in the EU ETS Directive.