Greenhouse gas emission trends in Europe are, on the whole, encouraging but developments in transport emissions and the emissions of certain fluorinated gases are alarming.
Greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union are decreasing and are expected to continue to do so with the implementation of all measures planned by Member States. In 2008, for the fourth consecutive year, emissions in the EU decreased to reach their lowest level since 1990. The EU‑27 has been achieving significant decoupling of its emissions from economic growth. Greenhouse gas emissions in the EU‑27 now represent 11 to 12 % of global greenhouse gas emissions and each EU citizen emits on average 10.2 t CO2-equivalent every year.
Historic trends of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU during the period 1990–2007 are the result of two sets of opposing factors. On the one hand, emissions have been driven upward by the increases in electricity and heat production by thermal plants (both in absolute terms and in comparison with other sources), industrial activity, transport volumes (passengers and freight) and the share of road transport compared to other modes. On the other hand, large emission reductions occurred in the same period, due to the economic downturn affecting eastern Member States in the 1990s, energy efficiency improvements (in particular by industrial end users and energy industries), a shift from coal to less polluting fuels (in particular gas and biomass) for the production of electricity and heat, and fuel efficiency improvements in vehicles.
Transport still remains the most problematic emitting sector, with upward emission trends (+ 26 % between 1990 and 2007, + 0.5 % between 2006 and 2007) due to an ever-increasing demand for transport of passengers and goods and a preference for road over other less-polluting ground transport modes. International aviation and shipping emissions have increased most of all sectors (+ 110 % and + 60 % respectively between 1990 and 2007).
Of all greenhouse gases, hydrofluorocarbons are the only ones for which emissions have drastically increased between 1990 and 2007 in the EU (+ 125 %), due to their use as a substitute for ozone‑depleting substances phased-out under the Montreal Protocol and to the expansion of air conditioning.