Greenhouse gas emissions by industries and households

Data extracted in November 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: December 2017.
Figure 1: Greenhouse gas emissions by economic activity, EU-28, 2009 and 2014
(% of total emissions in CO2 equivalents)
Source: Eurostat (env_ac_ainah_r2)
Figure 2: Greenhouse gas emissions by economic activity and by pollutant, EU-28, 2014
(thousand tonnes of CO2 equivalents)
Source: Eurostat (env_ac_ainah_r2)
Table 1: Greenhouse gas emissions by economic activity, 2014
(thousand tonnes of CO2 equivalents)
Source: Eurostat (env_ac_ainah_r2)
Figure 3: Greenhouse gas intensity by economic activity, EU-28, 2009 and 2014
(kg of CO2 equivalents per euro)
Source: Eurostat (env_ac_ainah_r2) and (nama_10_a64)
Table 2: Differences between inventories and accounts
Source: Eurostat
Table 3: Global warming potential weighting factors — calculation of CO2 equivalents
Source: Eurostat

This article analyses the emissions of three greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the European Union (EU) by the industries and households that are responsible for their generation. The three GHGs are carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4). Fluorinated gases (hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride), which are responsible for about 2 % of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, are not included in this analysis.

The data presented in this article are sourced from air emissions accounts (AEA), one of the modules in the European environmental economic accounts (for which the legal basis is Regulation (EU) No 691/2011). This article also briefly explains the differences between air emissions accounts and the emission inventories provided in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Main statistical findings

Greenhouse gas emissions

In 2014, GHG emissions generated by industries and households in the EU-28 stood at 4.4 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalents.

Analysis by economic activity

Air emissions accounts offer a detailed analysis by 64 emitting industries (classified by NACE) as well as households as defined and classified within national accounts. For the purpose of this article these 64 industries have been further aggregated to six groupings.

In 2014, the EU-28’s electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply activities (NACE Section D) had the largest share, accounting for 26 % of the total GHGs emitted by industries and households (see Figure 1). Emissions from the suppliers of electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning result from fossil fuel combustion for electricity generation and district heating, but do not include emissions from combustion in individual houses or households. The share of manufacturing (NACE Section C) was 19 %, meaning that producers engaged in these two groupings of NACE activities together contributed nearly half (45 %) of all greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-28 in 2014. Households also accounted for 19 % of greenhouse gas emissions, while producers in agriculture, forestry and fishing (NACE Section A) were responsible for a further 12 %. The grouping covering other services, water supply and construction (comprising NACE Sections E to G and I to U) accounted for 11 % of greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation and storage services had a similar share of total emissions in 2014 (11 %), although it should be noted that this encompasses only businesses whose main activity is transport, and so excludes the operation of motor vehicles by businesses not operating in the transport activities as well as motor vehicles operated by private households. Mining and quarrying (NACE Section B) accounted for the remaining 2 % of GHGs emitted by industries and households.

In most activities carbon dioxide was the most emitted GHG. Agriculture, forestry and fishing was the only grouping of activities where emissions of methane and nitrous oxide (expressed in CO2 equivalents) were greater than those of carbon dioxide (see Figure 2).

Developments between 2009 and 2014

In 2014, the EU-28’s greenhouse gas emissions by industries and households were 8 % lower than they had been in 2009, in other words, 395 million tonnes less of CO2 equivalents were emitted in 2014. Despite this quite significant decrease in the overall level of GHG emissions, the structure of emissions by economic activity remained relatively stable as can be seen from Figure 1.

Between 2009 and 2014, the level of emissions from the supply of electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning fell by 136 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents, a fall of 11 % in relative terms. In absolute terms this was the largest decrease recorded among the activity groupings studied. It was followed by other services, water supply and construction, where emissions decreased by 76 million tonnes (14 % in relative terms). Emissions from manufacturing fell by 50 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents (a 6 % fall in relative terms), while emissions from transportation and storage fell by 18 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents, a reduction of 4 %. The only increase in emissions was recorded for agriculture, forestry and fishing, an increase of 0.1 % in relative terms and of 393 thousand tonnes of CO2 equivalents in absolute terms.

Households in the EU-28 reduced their emissions by 102 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents (a reduction of 11 %) between 2009 and 20014.

Analysis across the EU Member States

Among the EU Member States, the GHGs emitted by the various producers and households varied considerably (see Table 1). These differences are, in part, due to different economic structures and different mixes of renewable and non-renewable energy sources. In nearly half (12) of the EU Member States businesses supplying electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning were the main producers of GHGs in 2014, while in six more Member States manufacturing was the main producer. In Ireland and Latvia the activities of agriculture, forestry and fishing were the main emitters while in Denmark, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Malta transportation and storage activities were the main source of greenhouse gas emissions. Households were the main source of GHGs in France, Croatia, Italy and Hungary.

Greenhouse gas intensity

The ratio of greenhouse gas emissions (in tonnes of CO2 equivalents) to gross value added (in million euros) measures the greenhouse gas intensity in economic activities (see Figure 3). Gross value added is valued at basic prices, and the time series are compiled using chain-linked volumes to eliminate the effects of inflation: the gross value added data are presented with 2010 as the reference year. With 5.5 kg of CO2 equivalents per euro, the supply of electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning had by far the highest greenhouse gas intensity in the EU-28 in 2014. Agriculture, forestry and fishing had the second highest greenhouse gas intensity, 2.7 kg of CO2 equivalents per euro. Between 2009 and 2014, the largest fall in greenhouse gas intensity in relative terms was observed in manufacturing (-16.8 %), while the biggest reduction in absolute terms was observed for the supply of electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning (-0.25 kg of CO2 equivalents per euro). There were also reductions in intensity for the other activities shown in Figure 3 except for mining and quarrying where the greenhouse gas intensity increased by 3.6 %.

Data sources and availability

Compilation approach

The basis for Eurostat’s air emissions accounts is Regulation (EU) No 691/2011 on European environmental economic accounts. These accounts are compatible with the international United Nations system of national accounts (SNA) and its European Union equivalent, the European system of national and regional accounts (ESA). Furthermore, these accounts follow the national accounts residence principle, which implies that emissions by resident economic units are included even if these occur outside the territory (for example, resident airlines and shipping businesses operating in the rest of the world). These two features make air emissions accounts in particular suitable for integrated environmental-economic analyses and modelling, for example of carbon footprints and climate-change modelling scenarios, which is their main purpose.

Air emissions accounts record national economies’ emissions to the atmosphere with an analysis by emitting economic activity compatible with that used in the ESA. Economic activities comprise production and consumption. ‘Air emission’ means the physical flow of gaseous or particulate materials from the national economy (production or consumption processes) to the atmosphere (as part of the environmental system). Annual data are transmitted by the EU Member States, as well as the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries and some candidate countries.

Countries use two approaches for compiling air emissions accounts.

  1. The inventory-first-approach starts from existing national emission inventories and re-arranges those data to a format compatible with national accounts. There is a correspondence to NACE and households for each inventory source code: the Selected Nomenclature for sources of Air Pollution (SNAP), the Common Reporting Framework (CRF), and the Nomenclature For Reporting (NFR). However, the correspondence is not always a one-to-one relationship and certain transformations based on models are required.
  2. The energy-first-approach starts from energy statistics/balances which are rearranged to form energy accounts from which air emissions are calculated using emission factors. Each country applies its individual methodological steps depending on the primary statistical sources available.

Emissions accounts versus emission inventories

In the reporting of emissions of greenhouse gases (as well as air pollutants), two different approaches are internationally established: air emissions accounts and national air emission inventories. The latter are used, for example, for reporting obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Table 2 shows the main conceptual differences between inventories and accounts. Significant differences between the totals for air emission inventories and air emissions accounts may occur in certain countries where very large resident businesses engage in international water and air transport services. For instance, in Denmark, carbon dioxide emissions reported in the accounts are 95 % higher than those reported in inventories. This difference is due to a very large Danish shipping business operating vessels worldwide and hence bunkering most of its fuel and emitting most of its emissions outside Denmark: these emissions abroad are not accounted for in the Danish emission inventory. For the EU as a whole, the differences between totals from air emissions accounts and from emission inventories are much less pronounced.

CO2 equivalents

A single kilogram of methane has 25 times the global warming effect of a kilogram of carbon dioxide, and a kilogram of nitrous oxide has 298 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide (see Table 3). The emissions of individual GHGs are converted into CO2 equivalents and then aggregated. The use of a common unit — a kilogram of CO2 equivalents — makes it possible to compare and combine the relative effect of different gases.

Analysis by economic activity

In air emissions accounts, the emissions data are organised by economic activity, using the NACE classification. This arrangement makes it possible to have an integrated environmental-economic analysis to supplement national accounts. The scope encompasses production by all businesses resident in the country, including those operating ships, aircraft and other transportation equipment in other countries.

Air emissions accounts also include households as consumers. Their emissions are accounted for whenever household consumption is directly responsible for environmental pressures. For example, emissions from a privately owned car are accounted under households, whereas cars owned by transport businesses (such as taxis) are accounted under transportation and storage.

The following activity groupings are used in this article:

  • agriculture, forestry and fishing — NACE Rev. 2 Section A;
  • mining and quarrying — NACE Rev. 2 Section B;
  • manufacturing — NACE Rev. 2 Section C;
  • electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply — NACE Rev. 2 Section D;
  • transportation and storage — NACE Rev. 2 Section H;
  • other services, water supply and construction — NACE Rev. 2 Sections E to G and I to U, in other words all remaining economic activities as defined in NACE;
  • households — households as consumers.

Carbon footprint

Air emissions accounts data can be used for modelling, especially for the so-called carbon footprint (see a separate article on carbon dioxide emissions from final use of products). While the current article provides information on the air emissions of producers, it is also possible to allocate these emissions to the final demand (consumption, investment, exports) for products which triggers the emissions by producers. This requires reallocating the gases emitted during production to their final use. For this purpose, CO2 emissions from air emissions accounts are fed into the consolidated supply and use tables and input–output tables for the EU. This results in environmentally extended input–output tables which facilitate an analysis of CO2 emissions from a production perspective and from a consumption perspective.

From a demand perspective, CO2 emissions are induced by final consumption (including the CO2 that is embedded in imports; these emissions arise from the worldwide production chains of products that are imported), direct emissions from households, and from production-related investments. CO2 emissions that are embedded in exported products are included in the accounts of the importer, not the exporter.

From a production perspective, the carbon footprint consists of direct emissions from households and emissions of domestic industries, including the CO2 that is embedded in imports for intermediate and final use.


The need to supplement information on the economy with environmental indicators was recognised in a European Commission Communication titled ‘GDP and beyond’ (COM(2009) 433). Furthermore, similar recommendations were made within the so-called Stiglitz report, released by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. Such recommendations support the analysis of statistics on human well-being to supplement economic indicators such as gross domestic product, for example by including physical indicators related to the environment.

Air emissions accounts measure the interplay between the economy and the environment with respect to air emissions, in order to assess whether current production and consumption activities are on a sustainable path of development. Measuring sustainable development is a complex undertaking as it has to incorporate economic, social and environmental indicators. The data obtained from air emissions accounts may subsequently feed into political decision-making, underpinning policies that target both continued economic growth and sustainable development, for example, initiatives such as the Europe 2020 strategy, which aims to achieve a resource-efficient, low-carbon economy for the EU by 2020.

See also

Further Eurostat information



Air emissions accounts by NACE Rev. 2 activity (env_ac_ainah_r2)
Air emissions accounts totals bridging to emission inventory totals (env_ac_aibrid_r2)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

External links