The EU in the world - environment

Data extracted in April 2018.

Planned article update: June 2020.


Between 1990 and 2015 the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 24 %.

Turkey had the highest revenue from environmental taxes among the G20 members in 2014 relative to GDP.

South Korea recycled more than half of its municipal waste in 2015.

Carbon dioxide emissions, 2004 and 2014
(tonnes per inhabitant)
Source: the World Bank (World Development Indicators)

This article is part of a set of statistical articles based on Eurostat’s publication The EU in the world 2018.

The article focuses on environmental issues in the European Union (EU) and the 15 non-EU members of the Group of Twenty (G20). It provides information on environmental taxes, air emissions, protected areas (habitats), freshwater resources, and municipal waste generation and treatment. It gives an insight into the state of the environment in the EU and in the major economies in the rest of the world, such as its counterparts in the so-called Triad — Japan and the United States — and the BRICS composed of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Full article

Environmental taxes

Turkey had the highest revenue from environmental taxes in 2014 relative to GDP

An environmental tax is one whose tax base is a physical unit (or a proxy of one) of something that has a proven, specific negative impact on the environment. Examples are taxes on energy, transport and pollution, with the first two dominating revenue raised through these taxes in nearly all countries. As well as raising revenue, environmental taxes may be used to influence the behaviour of producers or consumers.

In 2014, the EU-28 Member States raised EUR 344 billion of revenue from environmental taxes, equivalent to 2.54 % of GDP; by 2016 this value had risen to EUR 364 billion while the ratio was slightly lower 2.45 % of GDP. Figure 1 compares the relative importance of environmental taxes between the G20 members and shows how these developed between 2004 and 2014. Among the G20 members (no data available for Indonesia, Russia and Saudi Arabia), the highest revenue from environmental taxes, relative to GDP, was in Turkey where these taxes were equivalent to 3.83 % of GDP in 2014, with South Korea and South Africa reporting the next highest ratios, 2.54 % and 2.29 % of GDP. Elsewhere among the G20 members, the ratio ranged from 0.66 % to 1.91 % of GDP, with Mexico (0.06 % of GDP) below this range. Between 2004 and 2014, the ratio of environmental taxes to GDP fell in most G20 members, the exceptions being South Korea, Turkey, China and South Africa.
Figure 1: Environment related taxes, 2004 and 2014
(% of GDP)
Source: Eurostat (env_ac_tax) and the OECD (Green growth indicators)
Revenue from environmental taxes contributed 6.15 % of all tax revenues in the EU-28 in 2014, down from 6.59 % in 2004 (see Figure 2). In India and Turkey the share of tax revenues derived from environmental taxes was more than double that observed in the EU-28, and higher than in any other G20 members. The negative value for Mexico in 2013 reflects the system used to stabilise motor fuel prices, which leads to subsidies when oil prices are high. The share of environmental taxes in all tax revenues increased between 2004 and 2014 in China, South Africa and Australia (2004-2013), but decreased elsewhere among the G20 members.
Figure 2: Environment related taxes, 2004 and 2014
(% of tax revenue)
Source: Eurostat (env_ac_tax) and the OECD (Green growth indicators)

Air emissions

Data relating to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are collected under the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the UNFCCC, adopted in 1997 and entered into force in February 2005. Under the Protocol a list of industrialised and transition economies — referred to as Annex I parties — committed to targets for the reduction of six greenhouse gases or groups of gases. The G20 members that are Annex I parties are listed separately in Figures 3 and 4 from those G20 members that are not. The Doha Amendment to the protocol concerning the second commitment period (2013-2020) has not entered into force. The EU-28 has committed to a 20 % reduction with respect to 1990 by 2020. Other pledges for reductions by 2020 made by Annex I parties include: a 5-25 % reduction with respect to 2000 levels in Australia; a 17 % reduction with respect to 2005 levels in Canada and the United States; a 25% reduction with respect to 1990 levels in Japan; and a 15-25 % reduction with respect to 1990 in Russia. In 2015, 196 parties adopted the Paris Agreement that aims at governing emission reductions from 2020 onwards through national commitments; this entered into force in November 2016.

Between 1990 and 2015 the EU-28’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 24 %

Emissions of different greenhouse gases are converted to carbon dioxide equivalents based on their global warming potential to make it possible to compare and aggregate them. Between 1990 and 2015, Russia’s greenhouse gas emissions fell overall by 30 %, while the emissions of the EU-28 fell by 24 % (see Figure 3). Turkey’s emissions more than doubled, while emissions also increased for the other G20 Annex I parties. Among all of the G20 members, China (2012 data) had the highest level of greenhouse gas emissions, its emissions having nearly trebled between 1990 and 2012.
Figure 3: Greenhouse gas emissions, 1990 and 2012 or 2015
(million tonnes of CO2-equivalents)
Source: Eurostat (env_air_gge) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
Figure 4 provides information on the source of greenhouse gas emissions. Energy (including energy supply and transport) accounted for at least 70 % of all greenhouse gas emissions in the G20 members that are Annex I parties. Among the energy sectors, transport had the largest share of emissions in Russia and Canada while energy supply produced the largest share of emissions in the other Annex I parties shown. Elsewhere, waste made a relatively large contribution to the level of greenhouse gas emissions in Indonesia (2000 data) as did agriculture in Brazil (2010 data) and Argentina.
Figure 4: Greenhouse gas emissions, by sector, 2012 or 2015
Source: Eurostat (env_air_gge) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
Figure 5 provides information on emission intensities of carbon dioxide, calculated relative to the population size. These intensities varied considerably between G20 members reflecting, among other factors, the structure of each economy (for example, the relative importance of heavy, traditional industries), the national energy mix (the share of low or zero-carbon technologies compared with the share of fossil fuels), heating and cooling needs and practices, and the propensity for motor vehicle use.
Figure 5: Carbon dioxide emissions, 2004 and 2014
(tonnes per inhabitant)
Source: the World Bank (World Development Indicators)

Saudi Arabia, the United States, Australia and Canada all had more than 15.0 tonnes per inhabitant of CO2 emissions in 2014. With 6.4 tonnes of emissions per inhabitant, the EU-28 was at the lower end of the range for an intermediate group where emission varied from 6.4 to 11.9 tonnes per inhabitant, including also Russia, South Korea, Japan, South Africa and China. All of the other G20 members had CO2 emissions below the world average of 5.0 tonnes per inhabitant. Between 2004 and 2014, the intensity of emissions decreased in the United States, Canada, the EU-28, Australia, Japan, South Africa and Mexico. In the other G20 members, emissions increased, generally by less than 2.0 tonnes per inhabitant, but by more than this in Saudi Arabia (up 2.5 tonnes per inhabitant) and China (up 3.5 tonnes per inhabitant), the latter representing an increase in this ratio of 86.8 %.

China’s consumption of hydrochlorofluorocarbons in 2016 was greater than the consumption of all other G20 members combined

The Gothenburg Protocol is one of several concluded under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution; it aims to control transboundary air pollution and associated health and environmental impacts, notably acidification, eutrophication and ozone pollution. Ozone depleting substances (ODS) contribute to ozone depletion in the Earth’s atmosphere and include hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). These substances are listed in the Montreal Protocol which is designed to phase out their production and consumption.

Across G20 members, there has been a considerable reduction in the consumption of ODS in recent years. By 2016, the EU-28 had a negative consumption of HCFCs, indicating that exports and destruction of these substances were greater than the level of production plus imports (see Figure 6). Although 11.5 % lower than 10 years earlier, China’s consumption of HCFCs in 2016 remained more than double the level of consumption in all of the other G20 members combined.
Figure 6: Air pollution — consumption of hydrochlorofluorocarbons
(HCFCs), 2006 and 2016
(tonnes of ozone depleting potential)
Source: the United Nations Environment Programme (Ozone Secretariat)


South Korea recycled more than half of its municipal waste in 2015

The management and treatment of waste can have serious environmental impacts, taking up space and potentially releasing pollution into the air, water or soil. Municipal waste is collected by or on behalf of municipalities, by public or private enterprises and originates from households, commerce and trade, small businesses, office buildings and institutions (for example, schools, hospitals or government buildings) and some municipal services. For areas not covered by a municipal waste collection scheme the amount of waste generated is estimated.

The amount of municipal waste generated in the G20 members (see Figure 7 for details of the latest reference year) was particularly low in India, Indonesia and China, while it was above the EU-28 average of 482 kg per inhabitant in Australia, Russia and the United States. Among the G20 members with data for both years in the figure, decreases in the level of waste generated relative to population size were recorded in Australia, Japan, Turkey, the United States, Brazil and the EU-28 and increases elsewhere, notably in Russia; note that there are breaks in series for some countries.
Figure 7: Municipal waste generation, 2000 and 2015
(kg per inhabitant)
Source: Eurostat (env_wasmun) and the OECD (Environment, Waste)

Landfilling is the final placement of waste into or onto the land in a controlled or uncontrolled way. Incinerating is the controlled combustion of waste with or without energy recovery. Recycling is any reprocessing of waste material in a production process that diverts it from the waste stream, except reuse as fuel; both reprocessing as the same type of product and for different purposes should be included, while recycling at the place of generation should be excluded. Composting is a biological process that submits biodegradable waste to anaerobic or aerobic decomposition and that results in a product that is recovered and can be used to increase soil fertility.

Among the G20 members with data available (see Figure 8), Mexico (95.0 %; 2012 data) and Turkey (90.2 %; 2016 data) reported the most frequent use of landfill and Japan reported the most frequent use of incineration (78.2 %; 2015 data) to treat municipal waste. In South Korea, more than half (58.4 %) of the municipal waste was recycled in 2015, with the next highest share in Australia (42.0 %), followed by the EU-28 (29.8 %; 2016 data) and the United States (25.7 %; 2014 data). In the EU-28, 16.9 % of municipal waste was composted in 2016, approximately double the next highest shares among the G20 members, 8.9 % in the United States and 7.9 % in Canada (both 2014 data).
Figure 8: Municipal waste treatment, 2015
Source: Eurostat (env_wasmun) and the OECD (Environment, Waste)

Protected areas

In the EU-28 around 25.8 % of the surface area in 2016 was designated as a protected area as were 17.1 % of territorial waters

Terrestrial and marine areas may be protected because of their ecological or cultural importance and they provide a habitat for plant and animal life. Protected areas are areas of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means. Marine protected areas are any area of intertidal or sub tidal terrain, together with its overlying water and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or the entire enclosed environment.

According to the World Conservation Monitoring Centre of the United Nations Environment Programme, around 25.8 % of the surface area (land area and inland water bodies) in the EU-28 was designated as a protected area as of 2016, compared with a world average of 14.4 % (see Figure 9). Among the other G20 members, the largest shares of surface area that were protected were recorded in Brazil (28.9 %) and Japan (19.4 %), with Brazil also having the largest terrestrial protected area in absolute terms (2.5 million km2). The lowest shares of terrestrial protected areas among the G20 members were in Saudi Arabia (4.3 %) and Turkey (0.2 %).
Figure 9: Terrestrial protected areas, 2016
(% of surface area)
Source: the World Bank (World Development Indicators) — data from the United Nations Environmental Program and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, as compiled by the World Resources Institute
According to the same source, 17.1 % of the EU-28’s territorial waters were protected marine areas in 2016 (see Figure 10), nearly double the world average (8.8 %) and the third highest share among the G20 members, behind the United States (41.1 %) and Australia (40.7 %). These last two countries also had the largest marine protected areas in absolute size, 3.5 million km2 around the United States and 3.0 million km2 around Australia, followed by Argentina (1.1 million km2).
Figure 10: Marine protected areas, 2016
(% of territorial waters)
Source: the World Bank (World Development Indicators) — data from the United Nations Environmental Program and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, as compiled by the World Resources Institute

Between 2005 and 2015 China and India reported the largest increases in access to an improved water source

Water is essential for life, for plants and animals, including humans. Among other factors, increased access to safe water can reduce disease, improve health and thereby provide a foundation for social and economic development.

Figure 11 provides information on the proportion of the population with access to an improved water source, for example, a piped household water connection, public taps or standpipes, tube wells or boreholes, protected dug wells, protected springs, and rainwater collection. Worldwide, 91 % of the population had access to an improved water source in 2015, up from 86 % in 2005. In several G20 members access to an improved water source was complete (100 %), namely in Australia, Japan, Turkey, the EU-28 and Canada, with proportions between 96 % and 99 % in most other G20 members. India (94 %), South Africa (93 %) and Indonesia (87 %) were the only G20 members where less than 95 % of the population had such an access in 2015.
Figure 11: Population with access to improved water source, 2005 and 2015
(% share of total population)
Source: the World Bank (World Development Indicators)

All of the G20 members that had not already reached complete access in 2005 reported an increase in access between 2005 and 2015, with the largest increases in percentage point terms in China (9.2 points), India (8.6 points) and Indonesia (6.1 points).

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

The statistical data in this article were extracted during April 2018.

The indicators are often compiled according to international — sometimes worldwide — standards. Although most data are based on international concepts and definitions there may be certain discrepancies in the methods used to compile the data.

EU data

The data presented for the EU concerning taxes, emissions and waste have been drawn from Eurobase, Eurostat’s online database. Eurobase is updated regularly, so there may be differences between data appearing in this article and data that is subsequently downloaded. For the indicators concerning protected areas and water data have been extracted from international sources for reasons of comparability or availability.

G20 members from the rest of the world

For the 15 non-EU G20 members, the data presented have been compiled by a number of international organisations, namely the OECD, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the World Bank. For some of the indicators shown a range of international statistical sources are available, each with their own policies and practices concerning data management (for example, concerning data validation, correction of errors, estimation of missing data, and frequency of updating). In general, attempts have been made to use only one source for each indicator in order to provide a comparable dataset for the members.


Dramatic events around the world frequently propel environmental issues into the mainstream media, from wide scale floods or forest fires to other extreme weather patterns, such as hurricanes. The world is confronted by many environmental challenges, for example tackling climate change, preserving nature and biodiversity, or promoting the sustainable use of natural resources. The inter-relationship between an economy and a society on one hand and their surrounding environment on the other hand is a factor for many of these challenges and underlies the interest in sustainable growth and development, with positive economic, social and environmental outcomes.

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Greenhouse Gas Emissions by source sector (source: EEA) (env_air_gge)
Waste streams (env_wasst)
Municipal waste by waste operations (env_wasmun)
Environmental tax revenues (env_ac_tax)