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Climate Action
News article26 October 2022Directorate-General for Climate Action5 min read

EU emissions remain 4% below pre-pandemic levels despite rebound after COVID recovery

The Commission today adopted the EU Climate Action Progress Report. While EU domestic greenhouse gas emissions rose by 4.8% in 2021 from their exceptionally low 2020 pandemic level, they remained 4% below 2019 levels.  

Men on a wind turbine

The Commission today adopted two reports on progress made in EU climate policy in 2021: the EU Climate Action Progress Report and the Fuel Quality Report. While EU domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions rose by 4.8% in 2021 from their exceptionally low 2020 pandemic level, they remained 4% below 2019 levels. EU net domestic emissions, including the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector, were 30% lower than 1990 levels, and remain broadly on track to achieve the EU’s -55% net GHG emissions target by 2030.

Historical EU greenhouse gas emissions
Overall, EU net domestic emissions in 2021, including LULUCF, were 30% lower than 1990 levels, broadly consistent with the trajectory to achieve the EU 55% reduction target by 2030.

Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans said:

In the last year the world has faced unprecedented difficulties. The global health crisis, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the surge in energy prices have highlighted our fragility, while the devastating impacts of the climate crisis continue to materialise before our eyes. Against uncertainty and with huge challenges still ahead, the European Green Deal is and remains our blueprint and guide for a resilient and climate-neutral Europe. Work continues to deliver on its targets, so that we reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs and boost innovation. We should not be under any illusion that this transition is going to be easy, but the human and economic costs of inaction will only increase the longer we wait. We simply cannot afford to slow down.”

Compared to the previous year, 2021 emissions from sectors covered by the Emission Trading System (EU ETS) increased by 6.6%. The EU ETS covers power generation, the bulk of industrial production and emissions from intra-EU aviation. The increase reflects both the economic recovery from COVID-19 and the developing energy crisis. Following a drop of some 60% in 2020, EU ETS aviation emissions rebounded in 2021 by 30% but remained 50% lower than in 2019.

Since the introduction of the EU ETS in 2005, emissions covered by the system have been cut by around 34.6%. In parallel, Member States have raised over €100 billion in auction revenues since 2013, to be used for further climate action and energy transition measures.

Non-ETS emissions - from smaller-scale industry, transport, buildings, agriculture and waste - increased by 3.5%. The most pronounced increase was in the transport sector, where emissions rose by over 7% compared to 2020. Emissions from buildings also saw a rise of 3.1%. Emissions from the agriculture sector dipped slightly by -0.3%, but the long-term decrease in agricultural emissions has been small compared to 2005.

Carbon dioxide can be removed from the atmosphere and accumulated in vegetation and soils (by the land use, land use change and forestry – LULUCF – sector), but these removals decreased between 2013-2020, and are now 30% lower than 1990 levels. The main reason the EU’s carbon sinks have shrunk over that period is higher demand for wood, an increasing share of forests reaching harvest maturity and an increase in natural disturbances such as storms and infestations.

The Fuel Quality Report shows that further action is needed to meet the target of reducing the GHG intensity of transport fuels by 6%, which has applied since January 2021. On average, the GHG intensity of fuels in 27 Member States has fallen by 5.5% compared to the 2010 baseline, decreasing by 1.2 percentage points in each of the past two years. However, progress varies greatly across Member States, with eleven of them having achieved the target set out under the Fuel Quality Directive.

While, on balance, the EU remains on track to deliver on its climate ambition, swift action is required to reach the 2030 goal of at least -55% net GHG emissions and climate neutrality by 2050. That is why the Commission proposed a comprehensive package of climate, energy, transport and tax policy proposals in July 2021 to ensure that the EU policy framework is fit to achieve the EU’s higher climate ambition. The 'Fit for 55' proposals are now being negotiated by the European Parliament and the Council.

The transition to climate neutrality requires substantial investment. For the 26 recovery and resilience plans (RRPs) submitted by Member States and adopted by mid-September 2022, 40% of total planned expenditure is allocated to climate investments.

The Commission continues to work with the financial sector to align capital flows with climate objectives. These efforts include implementing the renewed sustainable finance strategy.

A range of EU funding instruments back a fair green transition, in which those most vulnerable to the social and economic impact are supported. The Just Transition Fund was proposed in January 2020 and supports the most affected regions as part of Cohesion Policy. To date, 19 Territorial Just Transition Plans have been adopted which mobilise EUR 6.1 billion of a total of EUR 19.2 billion. The JTF is part of a broader Just Transition Mechanism which is expected to mobilise near EUR 55 billion for a just climate transition in the EU. A Council recommendation on ensuring a fair transition to climate neutrality was adopted in June 2022 to provide guidance for Member States on designing and implementing policy packages on employment, skills, social and distributional aspects of the transition. Member States are also putting in place measures to provide people on low incomes with access to energy and transport. 


  • The Climate Action Progress Report Accelerating the transition to climate neutrality for Europe’s security and prosperity” describes progress made by the EU and its Member States in attaining its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, as well as reporting recent developments in EU climate policy. The report is based on data submitted by Member States under the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action Regulation.
  • The Fuel Quality Report provides information on the progress made with regard to the greenhouse gas intensity reduction of the road transport fuels and the quality and composition of fuels supplied in the EU. The report summarises the situation reported by Member States under Articles 7a and 8(3) of the Fuel Quality Directive.

Read More

Climate Action Progress Report

Fuel Quality Report

Delivering the European Green Deal



Publication date
26 October 2022
Directorate-General for Climate Action