Greenhouse gas emission statistics - carbon footprints

Data from January 2018. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: February 2019.

This article is about carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions classified by final use of products in the EU-28 also known as 'carbon footprints'. Eurostat uses a modelling approach to compile these estimates, based on economic information and air emissions accounts (AEA). Carbon footprints are one particular analytical application of AEA.

Eurostat records and publishes the AEA as well, which include a range of greenhouse gas emissions. AEA are suited for integrated environmental-economic analyses such as the 'footprints' presented here or for calculating emission intensities. As a third set of greenhouse gas emissions statistics, Eurostat disseminates GHG emissions classified by technical processes. These are recorded in so-called GHG emission inventories and form the official data for international climate policies.

Eurostat estimates the EU-28’s carbon footprint at 7.1 tonnes per person in 2015. The majority of the emissions originate from EU production activities.

Main statistical findings

Carbon dioxide emissions associated with EU consumption and production

Figure 1: CO2 emissions — production and consumption perspective breakdown, EU-28, 2015
(tonnes CO2 per person),
Source: Eurostat (env_ac_io10)
Figure 2: CO2 emissions — production and consumption perspective, EU-28, 2008-2015
(index 2008 = 100),
Source: Eurostat (env_ac_io10)

The right-hand bar of Figure 1 shows the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from final use of products within the EU-28 economy. The EU-28 final use of products encompasses consumption by private households and governments as well as the use of products for gross fixed capital formation, or in other words investments, such as buildings, plants and machinery, motor vehicles, and infrastructure. The estimate includes all CO2 emitted to produce the final product, including emissions from intermediate inputs and including emissions abroad. As the point of reference is the final product, it gives a consumption perspective of CO2 emissions and is also referred to as consumption-based accounting. This type of estimate is also known as a ‘carbon footprint’. The carbon footprint of the EU-28 measures how much CO2 was emitted due to EU-28's demand for products.

The EU-28's total carbon footprint was equal to 7.1 tonnes CO2 per person in 2015. It consists of about 1.6 tonnes of CO2 per person (tonnes/person) directly emitted by private households from burning fossil fuels (for example for heating dwellings and fuelling private vehicles) and 5.4 tonnes/person emitted indirectly along the production chains of final products which were either consumed or invested in within the EU-28. A majority of the latter — 4.4 tonnes/person — stemmed from domestic production activities actually located in the EU-28. A smaller part, equal to 1.1 tonnes/person, is estimated to have originated from production activities outside the EU-28 that created intermediate and final products that were then imported into the EU-28 for final use.

This estimate for emissions embodied in imports is based on the ‘domestic-technology-assumption’ — in other words it is assumed that the imported products are produced with production technologies similar to those employed within the EU-28. By importing various goods and services from the rest of the world, the EU-28 can be seen to have ‘avoided’ 1.1 tonnes of CO2 emissions per person that would otherwise have been created within its own production activities. There is some evidence, for example from international energy statistics, that the rest of the world economy may, on average, use more carbon-intensive production technologies than those typically employed in the EU. Hence, the estimate of 1.1 tonnes of CO2 emissions per person based on this assumption may be considered as an underestimate.

CO2 emissions may also be analysed from a production perspective, in other words, emissions generated by the EU-28 economy. In 2015, these amounted in total to 7.3 tonnes CO2 per person (see left-hand bar of Figure 1). CO2 emitted in the EU-28 was made up of 1.6 tonnes/person direct emissions by private households (for example for heating and private transport) and 5.7 tonnes/person coming from domestic production activities, in other words from EU production activities. The majority of the latter relate to the production of goods and services for the EU domestic final use (4.4 tonnes/person). A smaller part of the EU production emissions is due to the production of goods and services that are exported outside the EU (1.3 tonnes/person). See the Statistics Explained article 'Greenhouse gas emission statistics - air emissions accounts' for more information about air emissions from the production perspective.

Figure 2 shows the development over time of total CO2 for the consumption and the production perspective. The trend in the two series matches quite closely. Consumption-based emissions decrease a little more for the most recent years reported, leading to a small gap between the two values in 2015. The difference between the two perspectives is the net export of embodied emissions. Over the last few years, imported emissions have decreased more strongly than emissions embodied in exports. However, the total value of EU-28 imports in 2015 was almost at the same level again as in 2008. As noted before, imported emissions are estimated by assuming that the imported products are produced with domestic technologies. Hence, the EU-28 has changed the product mix of its imports towards products that, estimated based on EU-28 production technologies, cause less CO2 emissions.

Products with largest contribution to the carbon footprint

Table 1: Domestic and imported CO2 emissions from final use of products, EU-28, 2015,
Source: Eurostat (env_ac_io10)
Figure 3: CO2 emissions from final use of three products with highest CO2 emission footprints, EU-28, 2008-2015
(kilograms CO2 per person)
Source: Eurostat (env_ac_io10)

Table 1 shows which products caused the most CO2 emissions worldwide (to meet EU-28 demand for final use of products). With 0.85 tonnes/person or 847 kilogrammes per person (kg/person) the final use of the product group electricity, gas, steam and air-conditioning has the biggest carbon footprint. Next ranks the final use of constructions and construction works with 613 kg/person while the final use of food products, beverages and tobacco products ranks third with a carbon footprint of 408 kg/person.

Figure 3 shows for the same products the development of their carbon footprint over time. This figure shows that the general trend is not directly shaped by the products with the largest share in total carbon footprint. Emissions from the product group electricity, gas, steam and air-conditioning are somewhat more volatile. There was a sharp drop in emissions from constructions and construction works directly following the onset of the financial crisis, which a further downward trend from 2011 onward. Emissions from the product group food products, beverages and tobacco products are slightly lower in 2015 compared to 2008, but the overall trend is the most stable one of the three.

Data sources and availability

Two main Eurostat data sources feed into the modelling to compile the estimates presented above.

The CO2 emissions from a production perspective come from air emissions accounts which are part of Eurostat’s environmental accounts programme; air emissions accounts record the emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants by a detailed breakdown of economic activities, namely 64 industries and various activities of private households.

The carbon footprint estimates are based on environmentally extended input–output modelling. The modelling is based on the aforementioned air emissions accounts which are integrated with ESA supply and use tables. Please note that the subdivision into domestic and exported emissions shown on the left-hand side of Figure 1 — the production perspective — is also a result of this modelling.

Three perspectives of greenhouse gas emission statistics

Eurostat presents three perspectives of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions statistics:

Perspective Statistical framework Purpose Related data set Related SE article
1. GHG emissions classified by economic activities Air Emissions Accounts (AEA) by Eurostat tailored for integrated environmental-economic analyses env_air_aa link
2. GHG emissions classified by technical processes GHG emission inventories by UN official international reporting framework for international climate policies (UNFCCC, EU MMR) env_air_gge link
3. 'footprints' = GHG emissions classified by final use of products Modelling results published by Eurostat one particular analytical application of AEA env_ac_io10 this article


Supply and use tables portray production and consumption activities of national economies in a detailed manner. They form the basis for so-called input–output models and analyses. Both the tables and the models constitute powerful tools for addressing a range of policy areas. The focus of these models is generally made through an analysis of long-term structural changes within economies, for example, by studying value added shares, trade shares, or accumulated value added along certain production chains.

By adding environmental information (for example, air emissions or the use of energy) to these input–output models, it is possible to extend their analytical scope. Environmentally extended input–output analyses are of particular relevance for policy areas such as sustainable production and consumption, the sustainable use of natural resources, and resource productivity.

See also

Further Eurostat information



Emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants from final use of CPA08 products - input-output analysis, ESA 2010 (env_ac_io10)

Dedicated sections


Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)