European Environmental Agency Estimates a 24% Decrease in Greenhouse Gas Emissions Compared to 1990

European Environmental Agency Estimates a 24% Decrease in Greenhouse Gas Emissions Compared to 1990

Recently Reported Greenhouse Gas Emissions Level: 3737.36 MT in 2019, a Decrease of 24% Compared to 1990 Level (European Environmental Agency estimate)

The most recent greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) estimates for the EU from 2019 were conducted by the European Environment Agency. Through analyzation of their approximated GHG inventory, they found that the EU’s total emissions decreased by roughly 4% in 2019, meaning the EU emitted approximately 3737 MT of GHG compared to 2018. This reduction puts the 2019 EU emissions rate at approximately 24% of what its emissions rate was in 1990. This has allowed the EU to remain consistently below its 20% reduction target for 2020.

As of 2018, the EU emitted 3893 MT of GHG with 53% coming from fuel combustion and fugitive emissions from fuels, 25% from transport, 10% from agriculture, 9% from industrial processes and product use, and 3% from waste management. This data is based on the data reported in annual GHG inventories from the EU to the UN under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Of the 36.6 billion tons of greenhouse gases produced globally in 2018, the EU contributed 10.64% of these global emissions. Data collected by the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows the EU’s average CO2 emissions intensity per day ranged from 199.4g CO2/kWh to 282.4g CO2/kWh. For comparison, with significant changes undergone in the energy sector under the IEA’s proposed 2040 Sustainable Development Scenario, the IEA projects that in 2040 the average CO2 emissions intensity in a day will range from 25.5 CO2/kWh to 86.3 CO2/kWh. A decrease in emissions during a period of economic growth signals that climate policies implemented across the EU have likely positively impacted both the state of the environment and the economy.

One such policy of notoriety is the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). Set up in 2005, it operates on a “cap and trade” principle whereby the EU sets a cap on the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted by industries covered by the system with that limit being gradually reduced over time. Within this given cap, companies have the ability to buy and sell emissions allowances amongst each other and companies must submit enough allowances to cover their given emissions over a year or else they are heavily fined. Since the EU sets the cap, it ensures that greenhouse gas emissions continue to be reduced, as the European Environment Agency’s emission data verifies. Critics take issue with the high limits of the cap and call attention to the surplus of allowances within industries. The EU ETS’s effectiveness could be improved by lowering the current cap and more aggressively reducing its GHG emissions.

Another notable GHG reduction policy from the EU is the Effort Sharing Legislation enacted in 2013. The Effort Sharing Legislation establishes binding annual greenhouse gas emissions targets for Member States for the periods 2013–2020 and 2021–2030. It includes sectors not included in the EU Emissions Trading System, such as transport, buildings, agriculture and waste. Such national targets are binding for Member States and are mandated to be implemented and signal that the EU might achieve its 2020 and 2030 emissions targets.

Activity Rating

Emission Levels *** / 4 stars

In 2018 the EU saw a 24.9% decrease in MT of GHG emissions since 2008.

Existing Policies **** / 4 stars

Data from the European Environment Agency indicates successful results from the EU’s policies and notes their significant impact on reducing emissions.

Combined Activity Rating ******* / 8 stars

Through the EU ETS and the Effort Sharing Legislation, the EU has demonstrated an effective implementation of policies that have caused a significant decrease in greenhouse gas emissions over the last 10 years. The future of emissions rates in the EU looks promising given these impressive strides that have already been made and the ways in which they will continue to ensure a reduction in emissions.


Olivier Juvyns, Policy Officer for European Commission – DG Climate Action European Union


“Average CO2 Emissions Intensity of Hourly Electricity Supply in the European Union, 2018 and 2040 by Scenario and Average Electricity Demand in 2018 – Charts – Data & Statistics.” IEA, IEA, 15 Jan. 2020,

“Effort Sharing: Member States’ Emission Targets.” Climate Action – European Commission, European Commission, 16 Feb. 2017,

“EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS).” Climate Action – European Commission, European Commission, 16 Feb. 2017,

“Greenhouse Gas Emission Statistics – Emission Inventories.” Eurostat, 18 June 2020.

“Sharpest Decrease of the Decade in EU’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2019, before Impacts of COVID-19.” European Environment Agency, European Environment Agency, 17 Sept. 2020,

Tiseo, Published by Ian, and Oct 9. “Annual CO2 Emissions Worldwide 2018.” Statista, 9 Oct. 2020,

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This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard EU Country Manager Brittany Demogenes

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