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Climate Action

Effort sharing 2013-2020: targets, flexibilities and results

Under the Effort Sharing Decision, Member States were required to limit their greenhouse gas emissions in the Effort Sharing sectors each year from 2013 to 2020. They were also required to collectively deliver a reduction of around 10% in total EU emissions from the sectors covered by 2020, compared to 2005 levels.

In 2020, the EU emissions covered by the Effort Sharing Decision were 16.3% lower than in 2005. The EU has thus overachieved its 2020 target by six percentage points.

The compliance period of the Effort Sharing Decision ended on 17 February 2023. All Member States met their effort sharing obligations in all years in the period between 2013 and 2020.

Member States targets: Annual emission allocations

The annual emission limits – also known as annual emission allocations (AEAs) – were determined on the basis of a linear trajectory, a straight line between a starting point defined for 2013 and the target established for 2020.

Member States had to ensure that emissions in 2013 did not exceed their average annual emissions between 2008 and 2010.

Additionally, for Member States that are allowed to increase their emissions, their emissions in 2013 could not exceed a level defined by a linear path starting in 2009. The linear path was based on the Member States’ average annual emissions between 2008 and 2010.

The AEAs for each Member State and year were adopted by the European Commission in March 2013. In October 2013, the AEAs were adjusted to ensure consistency with the enlarged EU Emission Trading System (EU ETS) scope for 2013-2020.

In August 2017, the AEAs for 2017-2020 were updated to ensure consistency with the latest international guidelines and methodologies for reporting emissions.

The greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for the reference years 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010 used in AEA calculations were reviewed as a part of a comprehensive review in 2012 and 2016 by technical experts, in consultation with each Member State. More details on the 2012 and 2016 comprehensive review can be found in the documentation section below.

The latest AEAs for each Member State and year are published on the European Union Transaction Log.

Flexibility in meeting targets

To increase the cost-effectiveness of their emissions path, Member States were allowed some flexibility in meeting their AEAs.

In years where emissions were lower than their annual emission allocations, Member States could carry over their surpluses and use them in later years. For high cumulative surpluses, carry-over limits were added.

In years where emissions were higher than the annual limit, Member States could carry forward a limited amount of allocations from the following year.

This gave Member States the flexibility to deal with annual fluctuations in emissions due to weather or economic conditions.

Member States could also transfer, i.e. buy and sell AEAs, from and to other Member States. This was an important vehicle to ensure cost-effectiveness. It allowed Member States to access emissions reductions where they were the cheapest, and the revenue could be used to invest in modernisation.

From 2013 to 2020, Member States could use international credits representing investments in projects that have reduced emissions in developing countries (Clean Development Mechanism) or other industrialised countries (Joint Implementation).

Monitoring of results and compliance

A strong monitoring and compliance system was in place to monitor Member States' action and help them take corrective measures if they fail to meet their targets.

Member States had to report on

  • their annual emissions;
  • the use, geographical distribution and types of Joint Implementation / Clean Development Mechanism credits and qualitative criteria applied
  • projected progress towards meeting their emission limits from 2013 to 2020;
  • information on planned additional national policies and measures to meet commitments beyond those in the Decision.

Member States have been reporting their greenhouse gas emissions annually through inventory reporting. According to international and EU rules, reporting needs to be done two years after the activity year. For example, 2018 emissions were reported in early 2020.

From 2013 to 2020, Member States were required to include in their national inventory reports not only their greenhouse gas emissions, but also information on international project credits used for compliance, and a summary of concluded transfers under the Effort Sharing Decision. Once every two years, Member States have been publishing reports on the policies and measures they undertake and projections of their future progress. The rules for this reporting were set in the Monitoring Mechanism Regulation.

This should enable Member States to take timely action to ensure that they comply with their annual emission allocations.

Implementation of the Effort Sharing Decision

To ensure that compliance with the AEAs was assessed in a credible, consistent, transparent and timely manner, a Union review of Member States' greenhouse gas inventories took place every year. The review was carried out by the technical expert review team contracted by the Commission, and coordinated by a secretariat at the European Environment Agency. The final review reports can be found in the Documentation section below.

The Documentation section also contains for each year a Commission Implementing Decision, in which the final ESD emissions per Member State are determined, after taking into consideration the technical corrections and revised estimates calculated during the review. After the publication of this Decision in the Official Journal, Member States had four months to apply flexibilities under Articles 3 and 5 of the ESD (borrowing or buying allocations/international project credits) to ensure annual compliance with their ESD targets.

Information on compliance and the use of flexibilities by Member States is publicly accessible on the EUTL public website.

The Commission also assessed progress made by the Member States toward their ESD targets in the annual Climate Action Progress Report published every autumn.

2016 evaluation of the ESD

In July 2016, the Commission presented an evaluation of the implementation of the legislation up to 2015. The evaluation concluded that:

  • While still in the early stages of implementation, commitments under the Effort Sharing Decision have contributed to stimulating new national policies and measures promoting effective reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. A number of policies which were part of the 2020 climate and energy package, in particular on energy efficiency and renewable energy, also reduced emissions.
  • Sectors covered by the Effort Sharing Decision

    The EU was on track to overachieve its 2020 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 10% compared to 2005 in the sectors covered by the legislation. Total emissions in these sectors in 2013 were 9.7% below 2005 levels. In 2014, they were 13% lower than in 2005. Total emission reductions between 2005 and 2013 were achieved in all sectors, ranging from -3 % in agriculture to -25 % in the waste sector. For several sectors, including buildings, transport, agriculture and waste, a significant part of the emission reductions to date can be attributed to factors such as technological changes influenced by policy interventions resulting from the 2020 package. As well as EU-wide and national climate and energy policies, the economic crisis and growth in economic activity in some countries have also had an impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Overall, the ESD has resulted in Member States becoming more active in considering new measures to reduce emissions in their sectors, how to best design the measures, as well as in improved coordination between national, regional and local governments. The ESD has resulted in limited additional administrative burden at Member State level, although there may be opportunities to reduce administrative costs, for example by simplified and less frequent compliance checks.

More details can be found in the Report on evaluating the implementation of the ESD and in the accompanying Staff Working Document.

The results of the evaluation were used when preparing the proposal for continuing effort sharing legislation from 2021 to 2030.


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Questions and Answers on annual emission allocations (October 2013)

Questions and answers on eligibility of international project credits under the Effort Sharing Decision (September 2016)


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