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Emissions trading: greenhouse gas emissions reduced by 8.7% in 2019


Emissions of greenhouse gases from all operators covered by the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) in 2019 reduced overall by 8.7%[1] compared to 2018 levels, as a result of 9% decrease of emissions from stationary installations and a 1% increase of emissions from aviation.

Despite the difficult economic situation due to COVID crisis, industry, power sector and aviation have fulfilled their climate obligations.

The reduction of greenhouse gases emissions in 2019 took place in the context of a growing EU economy (EU 28 GDP growth of 1.5% in 2019[2]). The biggest reduction was achieved in the power sector with a decrease of 15% reflecting decarbonisation from coal being replaced by electricity from renewables and gas-fired power production. Emissions from industry decreased by 2%. Emission reductions have been observed in most industrial sectors, including production of iron and steel, cement, chemicals and refineries.

Installations’ and aircraft operators’ level of compliance with the EU ETS is very high: more than 99% of emissions covered by allowances from the total stationary installations reported emissions. Non-compliant installations are typically small.

Emissions from stationary installations reduced considerably

Verified emissions of greenhouse gases from stationary installations (power plants and manufacturing installations) amounted to 1.527 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent in 2019[3]. They were 9% less in 2019 than in 2018.

Airlines' emissions: an emission increase significantly smaller than in previous years

Under the EU ETS Directive, all commercial aircraft operators, and non-commercial aircraft operators with significant emissions, are accountable for their emissions from flights within the European Economic Area (EEA)[4] in 2013-2023.

Verified emissions from aircraft operators amounted to 68.14 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent in 2019. This was approximately 1% higher than the 67.49 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent in 2018. 54% of these emissions were covered by allowances acquired from auctions or other sectors. Aircraft operators received free allocation of 31.3 million allowances, covering 46% of these emissions.

Around 500 aircraft operators reported and complied, including more than 100 commercial aircraft operators based outside the EU which operate flights within the EEA. Non-compliant operators are typically small or ceased operating in 2018.


Under the EU ETS, all operators (stationary installations and airlines) were required to report their verified emissions of 2019 by 31 March 2020 and to surrender a corresponding number of allowances by 30 April 2020. The verified emissions data was made available on the public website of the European Union Transaction Log (EUTL) on 1 April 2020. The EUTL displays compliance data from 1 May 2020, with information on whether installations have complied with their obligation to surrender an amount of allowances equal to the previous year's verified emissions.

The level of compliance and the level of registered emissions were again this year very high, despite the crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, this year again, real data are used and there was no need to do an approximate calculation. Instead, the total emissions reported in 2018 and 2019 were compared.

The third period of the EU ETS began on 1 January 2013 and runs until 31 December 2020. Rules revising the EU ETS for 2021-2030 were adopted in 2018 and will apply from January next year.

For more information:

[1] All emissions reported for 2019 as recorded in the European Union Transaction Log on 1 May 2020.
[2] EUROSTAT gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate data available on 4 May 2020.
[3] All emissions reported for 2019 as recorded in the European Union Transaction Log on 1 May 2020.
[4] The limitation of the EU ETS to flights within the EEA from 2013 was agreed in Regulation No.421/2014 and extended until 2023 by Regulation (EU) 2017/2392.