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Climate Action

Annual emission allocations 2013-2020 and flexibilities

Under the Effort Sharing Decision, Member States are required to limit their greenhouse gas emissions between 2013 and 2020 by meeting binding annual limits which are set according to a linear path. The annual targets – known as annual emission allocations (AEAs) - follow a straight line between a defined starting point in 2013 and the target for 2020.

Member States which have taken on an emissions reduction target have to ensure that their emissions in 2013 do not exceed their average annual emissions for the period 2008-2010.

Member States which are allowed to increase their emissions must ensure that their emissions in 2013 do not exceed a level defined by a linear path starting in 2009. The linear path is based on the Member State's average annual emissions for the period 2008-2010. The path ends with the Member State's 2020 target which is based on its 2005 emissions.

Annual emission allocations

The annual emission allocations (AEAs) for each Member State and year were approved by the EU Climate Change Committee in October 2012 and adopted by the European Commission in March 2013.

In October 2013, the AEAs were adjusted to ensure consistency with the enlarged EU Emission Trading System (EU ETS) scope for 2013-2020.

In August 2017, the AEAs for 2017-2020 were updated to ensure consistency with the latest international guidelines and methodologies for reporting emissions.

The greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for the reference years 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010 used in AEA calculations were reviewed by technical experts, in consultation with each Member State.

More details on the 2012 and 2016 comprehensive review can be found in the Documentation section. The latest AEAs for each Member State and year are published here.

Flexibility in meeting targets

To increase the cost-effectiveness of their emissions path, Member States are allowed certain flexibility in meeting their AEAs.

  • Within the Member State itself:
    • Overachievement in a given year can be carried over to subsequent years, up to 2020
    • An emission allocation of up to 5% during 2013-2019 may be carried forward from the following year (Article 3.2 of the Decision)
  • Between Member States:
    • During 2013-2019, Member States may transfer (for instance, by selling) part of their AEA for a given year to other Member States under certain conditions (Articles 3.4 and 3.5)
  • International credits representing investments in projects that have reduced emissions in developing countries (Clean Development Mechanism) or other industrialised countries (Joint Implementation) can be used under certain quantitative and qualitative conditions (Article 5). The Documentation section is regularly updated with lists of project credits eligible for compliance under the Effort Sharing Decision. The General positive list contains project credits that can be used by all Member States (Article 5(1)), whereas the Special positive list (Article 5(5)) contains project credits that can be used only additionally by the 12 Member States listed in Annex III.

Monitoring of results and compliance

A strong monitoring and compliance system has been put in place to monitor Member States' action and help them take corrective measures if they fail to meet their targets.

Member States have to report on

  • their annual emissions;
  • the use, geographical distribution and types of JI/CDM credits and qualitative criteria applied;
  • projected progress towards meeting their emission limits in 2013-2020; and
  • information on planned additional national policies and measures to meet commitments beyond those in the Decision.

The annual reports that Member States are required to make under the ESD cover not only their emissions but also the policies and measures they are undertaking and projections of their future progress.

Together with the various flexibilities at their disposal, this should enable Member States to take timely action to ensure that they comply with their annual emission allocations for the period 2013-2020.

One flexibility to take particular note of is the possibility for a Member State to buy surplus allocations from other Member States.

However, if a Member State's emissions for a given year exceed its annual limit even when the flexibilities are accounted for, it will be subject to a penalty and will have to take corrective action under Article 7 of the ESD:

The Member State will have to achieve the missing emissions reduction in the next year (i.e. to deduct the excessive emission in tonnes of CO2 equivalent from the emission allocation of the following year), multiplied by a factor of 1.08 as a penalty. The Member State will also have to submit a corrective action plan to the Commission describing in detail their intention to get back on track towards meeting its 2020 target. In addition, the non-complying Member State will temporarily lose the right to transfer any allocations to other Member States. The Effort Sharing Regulation (EU) 2018/842, which covers the years 2021-30 ensures that the need to achieve missing emission reductions including the penalty the year after also applies to 2020 emissions.

In addition to the provisions of the ESD/ESR, the Commission may launch a formal infringement procedure against the Member State under Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The infringement procedure is another tool of the Commission to make the Member State comply with its obligations under the EU law and may even involve the Court of Justice.


Key Documents

Eligibility of international project credits under the Effort Sharing Decision

2016 comprehensive review of Member States' greenhouse gas emission inventories

In 2013 the Commission had to determine Member States' AEAs based on historical GHG emissions as reported according to the IPCC guidelines and UNFCCC methodologies valid at that time. In order to take account for later methodological updates, Article 27(2) of Monitoring Mechanism Regulation foresaw the possibility for the Commission to revise Member States' AEAs for the years 2017-2020. Therefore in 2016 the Member States' GHG inventory estimates for the reference years (2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010) were again reviewed by the Technical Expert Review Team, during a comprehensive review coordinated by the European Environment Agency. The 2016 final review reports for all Member States are available here.

2012 technical review of Member States' greenhouse gas emission inventories


Questions and Answers on annual emission allocations (October 2013)

    Questions and answers on eligibility of international project credits under the Effort Sharing Decision (September 2016)