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SDG 13 - Climate action

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Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts


Data extracted in April 2022.

Planned article update: June 2023.

Highlights


EU trend of SDG 13 on climate action

This article is a part of a set of statistical articles, which are based on the Eurostat publication ’Sustainable development in the European Union — Monitoring report on progress towards the SDGs in an EU context — 2022 edition’. This report is the sixth edition of Eurostat’s series of monitoring reports on sustainable development, which provide a quantitative assessment of progress of the EU towards the SDGs in an EU context.

Goal 13 seeks to implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change commitment to achieving a climate-neutral world by mid-century to limit global warming to well below 2°C — with an aim of 1.5°C — compared with pre-industrial times. It also aims to strengthen countries’ resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related natural hazards and the resulting disasters, with a special focus on supporting least-developed countries.

Full article

Context

Climate change has many widespread and irreversible effects, such as increased average global air and ocean temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, a rising global average sea level and increasing ocean acidity. Its impacts threaten the viability of social, environmental and economic systems and may make some regions less habitable due to food and water scarcity. In response to these challenges, the European Green Deal outlines the transformation of the EU into a climate neutral, fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy. The agreement in April 2021 on the European Climate Law enshrines the EU’s commitment to reaching climate neutrality by 2050 in EU law. Reducing energy consumption in transport, buildings and industries, increasing the share of renewable energy as well as shifting to sustainable agriculture and strengthening carbon sinks all contribute to achieving this commitment. Moreover, the EU works to enhance the adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce the vulnerability to climate change of its Member States and the EU as a whole with its Climate Adaptation Strategy. Because the climate crisis is a global, cross-border challenge that affects areas and regions differently, tackling it requires international coordination and cooperation. The EU has taken a leading role in international climate negotiations, pursuing the Paris Agreement goals and supporting climate initiatives around the world.

Climate action in the EU: overview and key trends

Monitoring SDG 13 in an EU context focuses on climate mitigation, climate impacts and initiatives that support climate action. Trends in climate mitigation have been mixed, with progress on net greenhouse gas emissions and the share of renewable energies putting the EU on track towards its 2030 targets. Greenhouse gas emissions have been falling in recent decades, with a record drop in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic significantly reducing fossil fuel consumption. However, net carbon removals from land use, land use change and forestry have declined, and CO2 emissions from new passenger cars will need to fall further to meet the EU target. In addition, the EU continues to face intensifying climate impacts as surface temperatures rise. Economic losses due to climate-related events have increased in recent years, although these remain highly variable from year to year. More local and regional governments have signed up to the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy initiative for implementing mitigation and adaptation actions. Financial support is significantly progressing, both inside and outside the EU with climate-related expenditure for developed countries being topped up.

Climate mitigation

Climate mitigation aims to reduce emissions of climate-harming greenhouse gases (GHG) that originate from human activity through measures such as promoting low-carbon technologies or encouraging sustainable forest management and land use that enhance carbon removals. By 2050, the EU is committed to reaching a climate-neutral economy with no net greenhouse gas emissions. This means reducing GHG emissions as much as possible while offsetting the hardest-to-abate emissions by removing carbon dioxide (CO2), for example by using natural carbon removals and carbon-removal technologies [1]. On its way to achieving climate neutrality, the EU has committed itself to reducing net GHG emissions by at least 55 % by 2030 compared with 1990 levels.

Measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic helped put the EU on track to reaching its 2030 climate target

Estimates for GHG emissions, excluding net removals from land use and forestry, in 2020 indicate the EU has achieved a 31.4 % reduction since 1990, and therefore substantially overachieved its target for a 20 % reduction by 2020 [2]. The net emissions, which include net removals from land use and forestry, had fallen by 33.6 % over the same period, putting the EU on track to reaching its net GHG emission reduction target of 55 % in 2030. Net removals from land use and forestry compensated for 7.3 % or 248.0 Mt of CO2-equivalent emissions in 2020. However, estimates for 2021 [3] show that GHG emissions have rebounded to near pre-COVID levels as a result of increased energy consumption (see the article on COVID-19 impacts). Therefore, additional mitigation action seems necessary to ensure the EU will meet its 2030 target.

A large proportion of the emission reductions have occurred over the past 15 years, with net emissions falling by 27.7 % between 2005 and 2020. Electricity and heat-generation activities achieved the largest absolute reductions, by consuming less fossil fuel [4] and increasing their use of renewable energy. Renewable energy sources contributed to 22.1 % of gross final energy consumption in 2020 (see the article on SDG 7 ‘Affordable and clean energy’).

The short-term trend has been less clear-cut. GHG emissions increased slightly between 2014 and 2017, but fell between 2017 and 2020. A remarkable drop of 10.4 % happened in 2020 compared with 2019, attributed mainly to the measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the related reduction in energy consumption. Overall, EU net emissions have fallen over the past five years (2015 to 2020) by 13.8 %. These data only cover GHG emissions produced inside the EU territory and do not take into account those that occurred outside the EU as a result of EU consumption (see the article on spillover effects).

Per capita emissions have fallen in line with the overall reduction in net GHG emissions

Across the EU, net GHG emissions per capita ranged from 1.2 to 16.8 tonnes of CO2 equivalents in 2020. Luxembourg by far exceeded the per capita emissions of other Member States, which can be partly attributed to a considerably higher number of commuters and transit traffic flowing into and through the country [5]. Compared with 2015, net GHG emissions per capita have fallen in all but four Member States. The strongest increase was reported by Lithuania, with net emissions per capita growing by 27.9 %, mainly due to a reduced carbon removal of forest land. Hungary, Czechia and Croatia also saw an increase in their net emissions. Sweden, Estonia and Finland reported the strongest reductions, of more than 30 %, as they reduced their emissions and increased net removals from land use and forestry [6].

The contribution of carbon removals to progress towards the climate target has declined over the past 15 years

Net GHG removals come from land use and forestry, which is also referred to as the ‘land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF)’ sector according to the IPCC classification. Within this sector, forests remove CO2 from the air (as trees capture CO2 through photosynthesis), which usually overcompensates for emissions from land use (for example, from the use of fertilisers) and land use change (such as when grassland is converted to cropland).

In the EU, GHG net removals from land use and forestry decreased between 1990 and 2020 by 17.4 %. While in the first half of the period, carbon removals from forest land increased, the trend was reversed and net emission removals from all land types fell by 20.2 % between 2005 and 2020. The largest decrease happened over the last five years of this period, when net removals fell by 16.8 %. However, due to the large drop in total GHG emissions, net removals still compensated for 7.3 % of emissions in 2020, which is a much higher share compared with previous years. In absolute numbers, the net emission removals amounted to 248.0 Mt CO2-equivalents in 2020. This is well below the net carbon removal target for land use and forestry proposed by the European Commission of at least 310 Mt CO2-equivalents by 2030 [7].

Emissions associated with energy consumption have fallen thanks to energy consumption reductions and the growth of renewables

A sectoral breakdown of the years 1990 and 2020 shows that all sectors of the economy reduced their GHG emissions over this period, except transport [8]. Fuel combustion in energy industries showed the strongest reduction, due to a general drop in energy consumption and an increasing share of renewable energy sources. In 2020, renewable energy contributed to 22.1 % of the EU’s gross final energy consumption, with the electricity sector relying on it for 37.5 % of consumption. As a result of these developments, fuel combustion by energy users (excluding transport) replaced energy industries as the largest emission source in 2020. This is because fossil fuel consumption in buildings increased slightly by 2 % between 2015 and 2020 [9], even though the share of renewables in heating and cooling increased by 13.7 % between 2015 and 2020.

Average CO2 emissions from new car fleets have fallen significantly in 2020, but further progress is necessary to meet the EU target

In 2019, passenger cars were responsible for 14.9 % of total domestic EU emissions of CO2 [10]. To reduce those emissions, the EU has set targets for the fleet-wide average emissions of new passenger cars. From 2020 onwards, a target of 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre (g/km) applies [11]. For each manufacturer’s new car fleet, a binding specific emission target is set according to the average mass of its new vehicles, in such a way that the overall target for the EU’s average fleet emissions will be met. For 2020, Regulation (EU) 2019/631 included a phase-in of the targets by considering only the 95 % lowest emitting cars of each manufacturer. Due to this phase-in and other flexible compliance mechanisms, most major manufacturers were able to meet their 2020 target [12].

Based on provisional data published by the European Environment Agency (EEA), the average CO2 emissions per km from new passenger cars registered in the EU reached 108.2 g/km in 2020, which is a 9.2 % fall since 2015. This reduction is due to a steep 11.4 % drop from 2019 to 2020, while average CO2 emissions had somewhat increased in the three preceding years. While this constitutes the largest emissions reduction yet, further progress will be necessary to meet the current EU target as well as the stricter targets that will apply from 2025 and 2030 onwards [13].

Climate impacts and adaptation

Higher concentrations of CO2 emissions and other GHGs lead to global warming and increased ocean acidity. As a consequence of global anthropogenic GHG emissions, the decade 2011 to 2020 has been the warmest on record, with a global mean near-surface temperature increase of 0.95–1.20°C when compared with the pre-industrial level. This means that roughly half of the warming towards the global 2 °C limit stipulated in the Paris Agreement has already occurred. The average annual temperature over the European continent has increased even more, by 1.9–2.02°C in this decade [14].

Climate impacts are a consequence of rising temperatures and the related intensity and quantity of extreme events which affect environmental, social and economic systems. The EU’s SDG monitoring focuses on the economic costs that arise from weather- and climate-related extremes. In order to minimise the impacts, countries are taking action to adapt to climate change, by introducing measures such as flood protection, adapted agricultural practices and forest management, and sustainable urban drainage systems. Climate adaptation is also fully integrated into the Covenant of Mayors, an initiative with thousands of cities in Europe and worldwide, which mobilises local governments and regions to make voluntary but ambitious climate mitigation and adaptation commitments.

Economic losses from weather- and climate-related extremes have been considerable over the past decades

Studies have shown that various weather- and climate-related extremes in Europe and beyond have become more severe and frequent as a result of global climate change [15] and that the resulting impact on human systems and ecosystems lead to measurable losses to economies and people’s livelihoods [16]. Reported economic losses generally reflect monetised direct damages to certain assets and as such are only partial estimates of damage. They do not consider losses related to mortality and health, cultural heritage or ecosystems services, which would considerably raise the estimate [17].

Over the period 1980 to 2020, weather- and climate-related losses accounted for a total of EUR 487.0 billion at 2020 values, with only 22.4 % of these losses insured [18]. However, recorded losses vary substantially over time — more than 60 % of the total losses have been caused by just 3 % of unique extreme events [19]. This variability makes the analysis of historical trends difficult. However, a closer look at a 30-year moving average shows an almost steady increase in climate-related economic losses, from EUR 10.8 billion in 2009 to EUR 12.9 billion in 2020 [20], which corresponds to a 18.8 % increase. The most expensive climate extremes during the period from 1980 to 2020 included the 2002 flood in central Europe (more than EUR 21 billion), the 2003 drought and heatwave (almost EUR 15 billion), the 1999 storm Lothar and the 2000 flood in France and Italy (both EUR 13 billion), all at 2017 values [21].

A growing number of local governments are committed to act on climate protection and adaptation

Communities play a vital role in implementing climate mitigation and adaptation actions on the grounds. In this context, the EU supports the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, which was established in 2008 and is one of the EU’s flagship climate initiatives. The Covenant of Mayors mobilises local governments and regions to make voluntary but ambitious climate commitments that help achieve emission reductions in and outside the EU and increase resilience to climate impacts. While initially focusing on mitigation measures only, from 2015 onwards the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy has explicitly concentrated on mitigation and adaptation measures [22].

In 2021, Covenant of Mayors (CoM) signatories covered 196.7 million people in the EU, representing 44.0 % of the EU population. Since 2010, the population covered by CoM signatories has grown steadily. In 13 EU Member States, CoM signatories represented more than half of the population in 2021. The highest share was reported by Belgium, with 95.3 % of the population, followed by Spain with 75.8 % and Italy with 75.0 %.

Financing climate action

As part of the transition towards climate neutrality, the EU is endeavouring to redirect public and private investments to areas where they will support this objective. For this reason, the EU has proposed the EU taxonomy as a classification system for sustainable economic activities and a European green bond standard intended as a voluntary ’gold’ standard for the green bond market. At EU level, climate change mitigation and adaptation has been integrated into all major spending programmes [23] and the EU has also committed to support international climate action.

The EU’s contribution to climate finance for developing countries has been increasing since 2014

In addition to investing in climate action within its borders, the EU and its Member States have also committed to raising money to combat climate change in developing countries. They take part in a commitment made by the world’s developed countries to jointly mobilise USD 100 billion per year by 2020 through to 2025, from a wide variety of sources, instruments and channels [24].

Total EU public finance contributions (including all 27 Member States as well as the EU institutions) increased from about EUR 12.9 billion in 2014 to EUR 23.4 billion in 2020 — a 80.8 % increase in six years. The largest contributor in the period was Germany, with contributions increasing from EUR 5.1 billion to EUR 7.7 billion, followed by France which increased its contribution from EUR 2.9 billion to EUR 6.7 billion (see Table 3). The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Commission were the third and fourth largest donors in 2020, respectively. Together, the EU, its Member States and the EIB are the biggest contributor of public climate finance to developing countries worldwide [25]. It is important to note that due to a methodological change, 2020 data are not directly comparable with earlier years as 2020 data are based on commitments only.


Presentation of the main indicators


Greenhouse gas emissions

Net greenhouse gas emissions evaluation 2022.png

This indicator measures man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as well as carbon removals, both on EU territory [26]. They are integrated into a single indicator — the net GHG emissions — expressed in units of CO2 equivalents using the global warming potential (GWP) of each gas. At present, carbon removals are accounted for only in the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector. The net GHG emissions shown here include international aviation, indirect CO2 and natural carbon removals from LULUCF. Emissions and removals data, known as GHG inventories, are submitted annually by Member States to the EU and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The European Environment Agency (EEA) compiles the EU aggregate data and publishes data for the EU and all Member States. Eurostat republishes the EEA data.

Figure 1: Net greenhouse gas emissions, EU, 1990-2020 (index 1990 = 100)
Compound annual growth rate (CAGR): – 2.1 % per year (observed) and – 2.8 % per year (required to meet target) in the period 2005–2020; – 2.9 % per year (observed) and – 3.5 % per year (required to meet target) in the period 2015–2020.
Source: EEA, Eurostat (sdg_13_10)


Figure 2: Greenhouse gas emissions and removals, by sector, EU, 1990, 2005, 2015 and 2020 (million tonnes of CO2 equivalent)
Source: EEA, Eurostat (env_air_gge)


Figure 3: Net greenhouse gas emissions per capita, by country, 2015 and 2020 (tonnes per capita)
Source: EEA, Eurostat (sdg_13_10)


Net greenhouse gas emissions from land use and forestry

Net greenhouse gas emissions from land use and forestry evaluation 2022.png

This indicator measures net carbon removals from the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector, considering both emissions and removals from the sector. The indicator is expressed as CO2 equivalents using the global warming potential (GWP) of each gas. Emissions and removals data, known as GHG inventories, are submitted annually by Member States to the EU and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The European Environment Agency (EEA) compiles the EU aggregate data and publishes data for the EU and all Member States. Eurostat republishes the EEA data.

Figure 4: Net greenhouse gas emissions from land use and forestry, EU, 1990-2020 (million tonnes of CO2 equivalent)
Compound annual growth rate (CAGR): – 1.5 % per year in the period 2005–2020; – 3.6 % per year in the period 2015–2020.
Source: EEA, Eurostat (sdg_13_21)


Figure 5: Net greenhouse gas emissions from land use and forestry, by country, 2015 and 2020 (tonnes of CO2 equivalent per km2)
Source: EEA, Eurostat (sdg_13_21)

Climate-related economic losses

Climate-related economic losses evaluation 2022.png

This indicator includes the overall monetary losses from weather- and climate-related events. The European Environment Agency (EEA) compiles the EU aggregate data from CATDAT of RiskLayer. Eurostat republishes the EEA data. Due to the variability of the annual figures, the data are also presented as a 30-year moving average to facilitate the analysis of historical trends.

Figure 6: Climate-related economic losses (30 year moving average), EU, 2009–2020 (EUR billion, constant prices)
Compound annual growth rate (CAGR): 1.6 % per year in the period 2009–2020; 2.2 % per year in the period 2015–2020.
Source: EEA, Eurostat (sdg_13_40)


Figure 7: Climate-related economic losses, by type of event, EU, 1980-2020 (EUR billion, constant prices)
Source: EEA, Eurostat (online data codes: (sdg_13_40) and (cli_iad_loss)).

Population covered by the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy signatories

Population covered by the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy signatories evaluation 2022.png

The Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy in Europe, now part of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, represents a growing climate initiative at multiple levels of governance with actors all across the globe pledging to deliver comprehensive climate change mitigation and adaptation and energy action plans and establish a regular monitoring process. Here the number of citizens living within regions that act as signatories to the Covenant of Mayors in Europe is monitored as an indication of the initiative’s reach.

Figure 8: Population covered by the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy signatories, EU, 2010-2021 (million people)
Compound annual growth rate (CAGR): 7.4 % per year in the period 2010–2021; 2.7 % per year in the period 2016–2021.
Source: Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, Eurostat (sdg_13_60)


Figure 9: Population covered by the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy signatories, by country, 2016 and 2021 (% of population)
Source: Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, Eurostat (sdg_13_60)


Contribution to the international USD 100bn commitment on climate-related expending

Contribution to the 100bn international commitment on climate-related expending evaluation 2022.png

The intention of the international commitment on climate finance under the UNFCCC is to enable and support enhanced action by developing countries to advance low-emission and climate-resilient development. The data presented in this section are reported to the European Commission under the Monitoring Mechanism Regulation (Regulation (EU) 525/2013) for the period up to 2019 and under the Governance Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2018/1999) for subsequent years.

Figure 10: Contribution to the international USD 100bn commitment on climate-related expenditure, EU, 2014-2020 (EUR billion, current prices)
Compound annual growth rate (CAGR): 7.8 % per year in the period 2015–2020.
Source: European Commission services and EIONET, Eurostat (sdg_13_50)


Table 3: Contribution to the international USD 100bn commitment on climate-related expenditure, by country, 2015 and 2020 (EUR million, current prices)
Source: European Commission services and EIONET, Eurostat (sdg_13_50)

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More detailed information on EU SDG indicators for monitoring of progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as indicator relevance, definitions, methodological notes, background and potential linkages, can be found in the introduction of the publication ’Sustainable development in the European Union — Monitoring report on progress towards the SDGs in an EU context — 2022 edition’.

Notes

  1. European Commission (2018), A Clean Planet for all — A European strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy, COM(2018) 773 final and European Commission (2019), The European Green Deal. COM/2019/640 final, Brussels.
  2. 2020 data for GHG emissions presented in this report have been calculated based on the approximated estimates for greenhouse gas emissions published by the European Environment Agency: EEA (2021), Approximated estimates for Greenhouse Gas emissions.
  3. Eurostat (2022), Quarterly greenhouse gas emissions in the EU.
  4. Eurostat (nrg_bal_c).
  5. Eurostat (2010), Using official statistics to calculate greenhouse gas emissions — A Statistical Guide, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg; also see Eurostat (2020), Commuting between regions.
  6. 2020 data for GHG emissions presented in this report have been calculated based on the approximated estimates for greenhouse gas emissions published by the European Environment Agency: EEA (2021), Approximated estimates for Greenhouse Gas emissions.
  7. The accounting methodology might increase or decrease this target as well as the considered emissions and removals from land types due to a difference in reporting and accounting methodology. Source: European Commission (2021), Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulations (EU) 2018/841 as regards the scope, simplifying the compliance rules, setting out the targets of the Member States for 2030 and committing to the collective achievement of climate neutrality by 2035 in the land use, forestry and agriculture sector, and (EU) 2018/1999 as regards improvement in monitoring, reporting, tracking of progress and review, COM(2021) 554.
  8. Eurostat (online data code: (env_air_gge)) and European Environment Agency (2021), Approximated estimates for greenhouse gas emissions.
  9. Eurostat (nrg_bal_c).
  10. European Commission (2021), EU Transport in figures — Statistical pocketbook 2021, p. 154. The total value refers to total CO2 emissions excluding LULUCF (land use, land-use change and forestry).
  11. European Parliament and Council of the European Union (2019), Regulation (EU) 2019/631 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 setting CO2 emission performance standards for new passenger cars and for new light commercial vehicles, and repealing Regulations (EC) No 443/2009 and (EU) No 510/2011, OJ L 111.
  12. Tietge, U., Mock, P., Díaz, S., Dornoff, J. (2021), CO2 emissions from new passenger cars in Europe: car manufacturers’ performance in 2020, The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), Washington DC.
  13. European Parliament and Council of the European Union (2019), Regulation (EU) 2019/631 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 setting CO2 emission performance standards for new passenger cars and for new light commercial vehicles, and repealing Regulations (EC) No 443/2009 and (EU) No 510/2011, OJ L 111.
  14. European Environment Agency (2021), Global and European temperatures.
  15. IPCC (2018), Global Warming of 1.5°C, Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
  16. IPCC (2021), Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerabilities, Contribution of Working Group II to the Six Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
  17. IPBES (2019), Summary for policymakers of the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Bonn; and European Environment Agency (2016), Climate change impacts and vulnerability in Europe: An indicator-based report, Report No. 1/2017, Copenhagen.
  18. European Environment Agency (2022), Economic losses from climate-related extremes in Europe (temporal coverage 1980–2020).
  19. Ibid.
  20. A 30-year moving average shows the average over the past 30 years for a given year. For example, for 2017, the data point shows the average from 1988 to 2017.
  21. European Environment Agency (2019), Economic losses from climate-related extremes in Europe (temporal coverage 1980–2017).
  22. European Commission, European climate adaptation platform — Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.
  23. European Commission, Budget — Multiannual Financial Framework programmes.
  24. European Commission (2018), A modern budget for a Union that protects, empowers and defends: The Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021–2027, COM(2018) 321 final, Brussels.
  25. European Commission (2022), International climate finance.
  26. The ‘Kyoto basket’ of GHGs includes carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and the so-called F-gases F-gases, i.e., hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).