Statistics Explained

Greenhouse gas emission statistics - emission inventories

This is the stable Version.

Data from June 2022

Planned article update: June 2023


Greenhouse gas emissions in the EU down by 33 % between 1990 and 2020.
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Greenhouse gas emissions (including international aviation, excluding LULUCF) trend, EU, 1990 - 2020

This article is about emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG emissions) classified by technical processes. These are recorded in GHG emission inventories submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and form the official data for international climate policies.

In addition, Eurostat disseminates GHG emissions classified by emitting economic activities. Those are recorded in air emissions accounts (AEA). Furthermore, Eurostat estimates and disseminates so-called 'footprints' which are GHG emissions classified by products that are finally demanded by households or government, or that are invested in or exported.

Full article

Trends in greenhouse gas emissions

This article presents trends in emissions of all greenhouse gases, namely: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and natrium trifluoride (NF3). Data presented in this article include emissions from international aviation and exclude emissions or removals from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF).

The driving forces behind GHG (e.g. increased energy use, etc.) are not discussed here, nor are the impacts of climate change on human activities. For an analysis of the driving forces behind emissions, based on Eurostat statistics, see the article Climate change - driving forces.

In 2020, greenhouse gas emissions in the EU were down by 33 % compared with 1990 levels, representing an absolute reduction of 1 563 million tonnes of CO2-equivalents.

Figure 1: Total greenhouse gas emissions (including international aviation, excluding LULUCF) trend, EU, 1990–2020
(Index 1990 = 100)
Source: Eurostat (env_air_gge), European Environment Agency

Figure 1 shows that there was a general downward trend to emissions during the 1990–1999 period (aside from a relative peak in 1996, when a cold winter led to an increase in heating requirements). From 1999 to 2008 the evolution of greenhouse gas emissions within the EU remained relatively unchanged. The year 2009 saw a sharp drop in emissions as a consequence of the global financial and economic crisis and the resulting reduced industrial activity. Emissions increased in 2010 and decreased again from 2011 onward. Between 2015 and 2017, GHG emissions had slightly been increasing. In 2020 emissions decreased by 10.7 % (373 million tonnes of CO2-equivalents) compared to 2019 levels, showing the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For detailed analysis of greenhouse gas emissions consult the Annual European Union greenhouse gas inventory 1990–2020 and inventory report 2022 (published by EEA).

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

Data in this article is based on the data reported in annual greenhouse gas inventories from the European Union (EU) to the United Nations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Under the inventories, international aviation is reported as a memo item, while LULUCF is one of the six inventory sectors (see below). For a further understanding of the EU targets and commitments, see Context.

Each greenhouse gas has a different capacity to cause global warming, depending on its radiative properties, molecular weight and the length of time it remains in the atmosphere. The global warming potential (GWP) of each gas is defined in relation to a given weight of carbon dioxide for a set time period (for the purpose of the Kyoto Protocol a period of 100 years). GWPs are used to convert emissions of greenhouse gases to a relative measure (known as carbon dioxide equivalents: CO2-equivalents). The weighting factors currently used are the following: carbon dioxide = 1, methane = 25, nitrous oxide = 298, and sulphur hexafluoride = 22 800; hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons comprise a large number of different gases that have different GWPs.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) compiles an annual greenhouse gas inventory report on behalf of the EU. Estimates of greenhouse gas emissions are produced for a number of sources which are delineated in sectors primarily according to the technological source of emissions, as devised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The five main emission source sectors include:

  • energy (fuel combustion and fugitive emissions from fuels) — which also includes transport (CRF1);
  • industrial processes and product use (CRF2)
  • agriculture (CRF3)
  • land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) (CRF4)
  • waste management (CRF5)

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 this article
3. 'footprints' = GHG emissions classified by final use of products Modelling results published by Eurostat one particular analytical application of AEA env_ac_io10 link

Emissions accounts versus emission inventories

The main differences between air emissions accounts (AEA) and GHG emission inventories are:

Air emissions accounts – greenhouse gases (residence principle) Greenhouse gas emission inventories (territory principle)
Emissions are assigned to the country where the economic operator causing the emission is resident. Emissions are assigned to the country where the emission takes place
Emissions are classified by economic activity, following the NACE classification of the system of national accounts. Emissions are assigned to processes classified according to their technical nature (e.g. combustion in power plants, solvent use).
Emissions from international navigation and aviation are assigned to the countries where the operator of the ship/aircraft is resident, regardless of where the emission takes place. Emissions from international navigation and aviation are assigned to the countries where the associated fuel is bunkered, irrespective of the operator's place of residence.

Note: National and EU totals differ between the two approaches, as different boundaries apply. GHG inventories include international aviation and maritime transport (international bunker fuels) as memorandum items, which means that they are excluded from national totals reported. However, they are included in air emissions accounts totals. Therefore, total emissions reported in GHG inventory databases can differ significantly from the total reported in air emissions accounts for countries with a large international aircraft and/or shipping fleet. AEA reconciles totals with emission inventories through so-called 'bridging items'.


The EU is fighting climate change through ambitious policies at home and close cooperation with international partners. The EU has set itself targets for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions progressively. By 2050, Europe aims to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent.

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