Greenhouse gas emissions across the European Union (EU) last year were 22 percent lower than 1990 levels, according to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA).

The EEA said that despite a slight increase in emissions from 2014 to 2015, the EU is on track to meet the greenhouse gas emission target set for 2020.

The two EEA reports, ‘Trends and Projections in Europe 2016: Tracking progress towards Europe climate and energy targets,’ and ‘Approximated EU greenhouse gas inventory: Proxy GHG emission estimates for 2015’ provide updated assessments of the progress of the EU and European countries towards their climate change mitigation targets. The Trends and Projections report will be developed further with an assessment of the progress made on energy targets, expected to be published soon.

The EU’s 2020 targets include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 % compared to 1990 levels. The EEA reports show that EU emissions in both 2014 and 2015 were reduced by more than 20 % compared to 1990 levels.

Preliminary greenhouse emission estimates indicate a 0.7 % increase expected for 2015. This follows an exceptional 4.0 % reduction the previous year, which was due to a particularly warm winter. Emissions from industries in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) continued to decrease in 2015. On the other hand, emissions not included in the ETS increased. In particular, transport emissions increased for the second year in a row.  

“This year’s report shows that despite the small increase in emissions in 2015, the EU remains fully on track toward its 2020 climate targets. This progress forms a strong basis for implementing the Paris Agreement, which has just come into force. Nevertheless, achieving the more ambitious longer-term goals for 2030 and 2050 will require more sweeping changes and a transition to a low-carbon economy”, said Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director.

Progress of Member States on 2020 climate objectives

The latest national projections available from EU Member States indicate that by 2020, EU greenhouse gas emissions will remain well below the 2020 target. Progress of individual Member States toward their individual targets is more nuanced, however. These targets cover emissions from sectors which are not included in the EU ETS. In 2014, all Member States, except Malta, met their annual targets. Estimates indicate a similar situation occurred in 2015.

A total of 23 Member States project that their greenhouse gas emissions will be below their national targets in 2020 with the current set of policies and measures in place. The five remaining Member States (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland and Luxembourg) will have to implement additional measures to reach their targets. Member States can also use flexibility mechanisms which allow them to transfer emission credits from one year to another or between Member States.

EU progress towards 2030 climate targets

While projections from EU Member States show further decreases in EU greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020, the pace of these reductions will slow down. Updated projections show that planned reductions will only bring EU emissions between 26 % and 29 % below 1990 levels by 2030. This falls short of the EU’s 40 % reduction target for 2030. However, the agreed reform of the EU Emissions Trading System and recent policy proposals being discussed in the EU have not yet been taken into account in projections. These proposals include new annual binding greenhouse gas emission targets for Member States from 2021-2030, integration of the land use and forestry sector into the 2030 policy framework, and a European strategy to cut emissions from the transport sector. Additional proposals to address energy efficiency and to further develop renewable energy are also expected.