Skip to main content
Climate Action
News article31 October 2019Directorate-General for Climate Action6 min read

EU greenhouse gas emissions down 23% since 1990, still implementation will have to be further accelerated to reach current 2030 targets

EU greenhouse gas emissions declined by 2% in 2018 and reached their lowest level since 1990. In 2018, emissions were 23% below the 1990 level, while the GDP had increased by 61%. Implementation will have to be accelerated significantly, the annual..

CC BY-ND 2.0 Johann Kristjonsson

EU greenhouse gas emissions declined by 2% in 2018 and reached their lowest level since 1990. In 2018, emissions were 23% below the 1990 level, while the GDP had increased by 61%. Implementation will have to be accelerated significantly, the annual EU Climate Action Progress Report adopted today concludes, to reach 2030 targets and for the EU to become climate-neutral by 2050.

European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: “The EU is cutting emissions while its economy is growing. We are ahead of our overall 2020 target with solid progress in transforming power generation. But Europe cannot rest on its laurels. I am concerned that reaching energy efficiency targets, CO2 standards of cars and vans, as well as decarbonizing transport fuels in 2020 cannot yet be taken for granted. At the same time Europe’s forests and lands are removing less carbon every year. I expect necessary investments to be further stepped up already over the coming months, and the adoption of adequate national energy and climate plans by the end of the year.”

The European Commission today adopted four reports presenting how the EU and its Member States implement EU climate policy:

The EU Climate Action Progress Report shows that from 2017 to 2018, greenhouse gas emissions in the EU declined the most in sectors covered by the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), in particular power plants. Emissions from installations covered by the EU ETS were reduced by 4.1% compared to 2017. Emissions not covered by the EU ETS, such as emissions from transport, buildings, agriculture and waste, decreased by 0.9%. The reduction comes after three years of slightly increasing emissions from these sectors. A worrying trend is that removals of CO2 from the atmosphere have declined over the past five years. In net accounted CO2 removals, the decrease amounts to 40% of the total accounted sink. The decrease is mainly due to a decline in the forest sink, eg. because of increased biomass use but also to forest fires.

While the EU as a whole is expected to overachieve its 2020 target of reducing emissions by 20% compared to 1990, a number of short term challenges arise:

  1. In 2018, emissions continued to increase by 0.5% in the transport sector (excluding international aviation):
    • The Fuel Quality Directive requires a reduction of the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of transport fuels by a minimum of 6% by 2020. The Fuel Quality Report shows that refining industry supplied fuels and energy with an average GHG intensity in 2017 that was 3.4 % lower compared to the 2010 baseline, according to first data submitted by Member States. This corresponds to a saving of 29 Mt CO2eq in the year 2017. The progress achieved varies greatly across Member States, and almost all need to take swiftly significant further action to ensure that the refining sector will meet the 2020 target of 6 %.
    • Also for the car manufacturers to meet the lower 2020/21 CO2 fleet standards for newly sold cars and vans will urgently require significant further investments in alternative fuel infrastructure and other incentives to increase sales of low emission cars and vans in the two years ahead.
    • In addition, emissions from international aviation have increased by around 20% over the last five years.
  2. Under the Effort Sharing Decision, Malta, Germany, Ireland and Austria may end up with higher emissions than their emission limits over the period 2013-2020, according to their national projections. In this case, they will need to use flexibility mechanisms, e.g. transfers of emission allocations from other Member States to comply with their legal obligations.
  3. The implementation of the energy saving measures is lagging clearly behind.

The EU needs to further accelerate implementation to achieve its 2030 targets. The effective implementation of all climate, energy and mobility targets laid down in Union law could lead to EU greenhouse gas reductions up to around 45% in 2030 compared to 1990. Member States are currently planning how to meet their targets and obligations in these areas. If all planned policies and measures are implemented, the EU could reduce emissions in non-ETS sectors by 27 to 28% by 2030, as compared to 2005. To achieve the EU emissions reduction target of 30% for non-ETS sectors, the renewables target and most notably the ambitious energy savings target, a large number of Member States will urgently need to identify and implement additional measures. The first ever national energy and climate plans, to be submitted by Member States by the end of 2019, will need to lay out the required policies and measures, together with an identification of investment needs.

The Carbon Market Report shows that, in addition to the emission reductions highlighted above, the strengthened price signal in the European carbon market in 2018 led to a record amount of revenues for Member States from the auctioning of ETS allowances. The generated amount equaled to some EUR 14 billion - more than doubling the revenues generated in 2017. Member States spent or planned to spend close to 70% of these revenues on advancing climate and energy objectives - well above the 50% required in the legislation. Concerning the surplus of allowances in the market, the 2019 Market Stability Reserve surplus indicator continues to lead to placing allowances in the reserve, reducing the 2019 auction volume by nearly 40% (almost 400 million allowances).

The Directive on the geological storage of carbon dioxide (so-called CCS Directive) establishes a legal framework for the environmentally safe geological storage of carbon dioxide (CO2). The third CCS Directive Implementation Report shows that there is still very limited application of the provisions of the Directive. Nonetheless, the Member States that are interested in CCS as mitigation technology continue to support research and development activities. The report also shows that the CCS Directive provisions have been correctly applied in the EU Member States that reported over the period. Many of them continuously support the research and demonstration activities on CCS through national programmes and funds or are involved in a number of European research and collaborative projects, which demonstrates growing interest and potential in this matter.


  • The EU Climate Action Progress Report “Preparing the ground for raising long-term ambition – EU climate action progress report 2019” describes progress to the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets by the EU and its Member States and recent developments in the EU climate policy. It is based on data submitted by Member States under the Climate Monitoring Mechanism Regulation (MMR, Regulation No 525/2013).
  • The Carbon Market Report describes developments in the functioning of the European carbon market including on the implementation of the auctions, free allocation, verified emissions, balancing supply and demand, market oversight and EU ETS infrastructure and compliance.
  • The Fuel Quality Report is required under Fuel Quality Directive. This Directive requires a reduction of the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of transport fuels by a minimum of 6% by 2020.
  • The CCS Directive Implementation Report provides an overview of the developments in different areas such as preparation of storage sites, exploration and permits granted, the operation licenses of large power plants, CO2 transport and storage networks or national programmes and research projects with relevance to the Directive.

For More Information:


Publication date
31 October 2019
Directorate-General for Climate Action