The data confirms a 30-year downward trend which led to the EU achieving its 2020 target to reduce emissions by 20% compared to 1990 levels.
Collectively, the 2020 reduction was the largest in the EU since 1990 and total greenhouse gas emissions reached their lowest level since 1990, according to the official EU data which the EEA submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The overall reduction in 2020 greenhouse gas emissions was 34% compared to the 1990 base year, or 1.94 billion tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent).
The EU had already reduced its emissions by 26% in 2019 and had achieved its 20% target before the pandemic lockdowns started to impact emission levels.
Key drivers that led to emission reductions over the past three decades include the growing use of renewables, the use of less carbon intensive fossil fuels and improvements in energy efficiency, structural changes in the economy, lower demand for heating due to warmer winters in Europe. The effect of the 2020 economic recession triggered by the COVID-19 lockdowns also had a substantial impact on reducing emissions in 2020.
All sectors reduced emissions except for transport and refrigeration and air conditioning (although the latter have been decreasing in the last few years). Reductions were largest for manufacturing industries and construction, electricity and heat production, iron and steel production (including energy-related emissions) and residential combustion.
Several policies (both EU and country-specific) contributed to the overall greenhouse gas emission reductions, including key agricultural and environmental policies in the 1990s and climate and energy policies in the past 15 years since 2005.
Almost all EU Member States reduced emissions compared to 1990 and contributed to the overall positive EU performance. The UK and Germany accounted for 47% of the total net reductions over the past 30 years.
The EU’s 2020 target to reduce emissions by 20% excludes net emissions from land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities. The target includes international aviation and covers the EU-27 plus the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom withdrew from the EU on 1 February 2020. Key provisions of Regulation (EU) No 525/2013 (Climate Monitoring Mechanism) apply to the United Kingdom in respect of greenhouse gases emitted during 2019 and 2020, for the purpose of complying with EU commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.
The reduction of 11% from 2019 to 2020 would amount to 8.5% if international aviation emissions are excluded. Emissions from international aviation decreased by 59% between 2019 and 2020.