Air emissions accounts statistics
From Statistics Explained
- Data from January 2013. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.
Air emissions accounts record emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants in the European Union (EU) showing the economic activities responsible for their production (in line with the ‘polluter pays’ principle), following the same classification that is used within national accounts, namely the statistical classification of economic activities in the European Community (NACE). Air emissions accounts are thus an extension of emissions inventories, such as those used for official reporting under international obligations (for example, the Kyoto Protocol).
Air emissions accounts are a statistical information system that combines air emissions data and economic data from national accounts. Their main purpose is to provide data for integrated environmental-economic analyses and modelling to supplement traditional economic data. This article analyses the emissions and intensity of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and other air pollutants in the EU-27 on the basis of an analysis of six economic activities that are responsible for their generation.
Main statistical findings
Greenhouse gas emissions
Greenhouse gas emissions for the purpose of this article comprise carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane; emissions of these three gases resulting from economic activities stood at 4 176 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2008; this was 2.4 % lower than in 1998. The development of greenhouse gas emissions over this period showed generally quite small shifts in the structure of emissions according to economic activity (see Figure 1). The biggest change was in relation to the transport, storage and communication sector (which excludes the use of private vehicles – reported under households); its share of greenhouse gas emissions rose by 3.2 percentage points.
The overall level of greenhouse gas emissions fell for four of the six activities covered in Figure 1 – by far the largest decline in emissions was recorded for mining and quarrying, where total greenhouse gas emissions fell by 29.5 % (reflecting, at least to some degree, a reduction in mining activity as natural resources were exhausted or were no longer economically viable for extraction). The manufacturing sector saw its level of greenhouse gas emissions fall by 9.6 % between 1998 and 2008; part of the reduction resulted from a slowdown in manufacturing activity as a result of the financial and economic crisis. On the other hand, the transport, storage and communication sector reported that its greenhouse gas emissions rose overall by 29.8 % over the most recent decade for which data are available, while a much smaller increase (1.1 %) was recorded for electricity, gas and water supply.
Examining environmental variables together with economic ones can help identify which economic activity contributes to which environmental pressure and thus be helpful in devising specific policy measures where most needed. In order to make such comparisons it is first necessary to reflect upon the relative importance, in economic terms, of each economic activity. Across the EU-27 in 2008, by far the highest level of value added was generated by the other services and construction sector (which includes both private and public services, other than those concerning transport, storage and communication); it accounted for 71.5 % of the EU-27’s gross value added. Manufacturing activities accounted for 16.5 % of the total, while transport, storage and communication had a 6.9 % share. The economic weight of electricity, gas and water supply (2.4 %) and of the primary activities of agriculture, hunting, forestry and fisheries (1.8 %) and mining and quarrying (0.9 %) was relatively small. More information on the breakdown of economic activity according to these six aggregates may be found in an article on national accounts – GDP.
As shown in Figure 1, the picture was quite different when considering the relative contributions of each of these six activities to air emissions. The intensity of emissions can be used to measure the extent to which certain economic activities pollute the environment in relation to the economic value that they generate; the indicator is expressed as the ratio of emissions to gross value added and is presented in terms of the emissions produced for each monetary unit of economic output (for example, tonnes of emissions per EUR million of output). The lower this ratio is, the lower the environmental pressure of an economic activity are as compared with the relative contribution to the overall economic performance.
Electricity, gas and water supply had by far the highest intensity of greenhouse gas emissions for the EU-27 among the six economic activities that are covered in Figure 2. This sector generated 7 866 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents for each EUR million of added value in 2008, which was almost three times as high as the next most intensive activity, namely agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing (2 834 tonnes per EUR million). Furthermore, the electricity, gas and water supply sector was the only activity to record an increase in greenhouse gas intensity between 1998 and 2008 (up 1.9 %).
At the other end of the spectrum, the largest reductions in greenhouse gas intensity between 1998 and 2008 were recorded for manufacturing (-26.6 %) and other services and construction (-26.4 %).
Data sources and availability
Air emissions accounts show data on emissions using a breakdown according to the economic activity responsible for producing them. The two main underlying data sources on emissions are two international conventions that govern efforts to reduce the release of polluting substances into the air, namely: the Kyoto Protocol for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) concerning greenhouse gases; and the Gothenburg Protocol to the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) concerning acidifying substances. The core data from these emission inventories is published and distributed by the European Environment Agency (EEA).
Environmental accounts are subject to EU legislation, namely Regulation (EU) 691/2011 on European environmental economic accounts. This Regulation provides a framework for the development of various types of accounts, initially starting with three modules, with a view to adding other modules as they reach methodological maturity. Air emissions accounts are one of the three modules, alongside modules for material flow accounts and environmental taxes by economic activity. The aim of this legal base is to strengthen the coherence and availability of environmental accounts across the EU by providing a legal framework for their compilation, including methodology, common standards, definitions, classifications and accounting rules. The first regular annual data collection legally required under the Regulation will be in 2013.
In order to produce air emissions accounts, the emissions data are re-organised according to a breakdown by economic activity, as used within national accounts (based on the statistical classification of economic activities, NACE), which makes it possible to have an integrated environmental-economic analysis. The scope for air emissions accounts encompasses all nationally registered businesses (including those operating ships, aircrafts and other transportation equipment in other countries – the resident principle). Emissions are allocated to the economic activity responsible for producing them; unlike national emissions inventories, where the boundary for measuring the extent of emissions is the territorial border. As such, the accounting methodology used within air emissions accounts is not suited for monitoring progress towards internationally agreed emissions reduction targets, such as under the Kyoto Protocol.
The activity groups that are used in this article are constructed as follows:
- Agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing – NACE Rev. 1.1 Sections A and B;
- Mining and quarrying – NACE Rev. 1.1 Section C;
- Manufacturing – NACE Rev. 1.1 Section D;
- Electricity, gas and water supply – NACE Rev. 1.1 Section E;
- Transport, storage and communication – NACE Rev. 1.1 Section I;
- Other services and construction – NACE Rev. 1.1 Sections F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, O and Q; as such, this grouping comprises construction, retail and wholesale trade, real estate, renting, financial services, hotels and restaurants, as well as public administration, education, health and social work.
Emissions of individual greenhouse gases may be converted and aggregated to provide information for one environmental pressure: global warming. The use of a common unit allows the relative effect of different gases to be compared and combined – for example, a single kilogram of methane has 21 times the global warming effect of a kilogram of carbon dioxide (see Table 2 for more details on the conversion factors that are employed). Environmental pressures for each of the other pollutants are taken individually. Air emissions accounts present information for three of the six Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide; at the time of writing no data are available for perfluorocarbons (PFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) or sulphur hexafluoride, as most EU Member States are unable to provide a breakdown of these gases by economic activity.
The need to supplement existing information on the economy with environmental indicators has been recognised in a European Commission Communication titled ‘GDP and beyond’ (COM(2009) 433). Furthermore, similar recommendations have been made within the so-called Stiglitz report, released by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. The recommendations made support the expansion of the statistical understanding of human well-being by supplementing economic indicators such as GDP with additional information, including physical indicators on the environment.
Environmental accounts are one statistical means to try to measure the interplay between the economy and the environment in order to see whether current production and consumption activities are on a sustainable path of development. Measuring sustainable development is a complex undertaking as it has to incorporate economic, social and environmental indicators without contradiction. The data obtained from environmental accounts may subsequently feed into political decision-making, underpinning policies that target both continued economic growth and sustainable development, for example, initiatives such as the Europe 2020 strategy, which aims to achieve a resource-efficient, low-carbon economy for the EU by 2020.
In order to have such a holistic view of the various aspects of sustainable development, the existing framework for measuring the economy (the system of national accounts) is supplemented by satellite accounts that cover, for example, environmental or social indicators. These satellite accounts are developed using the same concepts, definitions, classifications and accounting rules as the national accounts, bringing environmental or social data together with economic data in a coherent and comparable framework. Thus, environmental accounts serve to enhance the understanding of pressures exerted by the economy on the environment – for example, accounting for the subsequent release of substances (such as air emissions or waste) into the environment as a result of economic activities.
Further Eurostat information
- CO2 emissions induced by EU's final use of products are estimated to be 9 tonnes per capita - Issue number 22/2011
- Environmental statistics and accounts in Europe, 2010
- Manual for Air Emissions Accounts, 2009
- Economic activities and their pressure on the environment 1995-2001 - Issue number 2/2006
- Environment (env), see:
- Environmental accounts
- Physical flow and hybrid accounts
Methodology / Metadata
- NACE background
- UN Handbook of National Accounting: Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting 2003 (SEEA 2003);
Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)
- Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution
- E-PRTR - Releases from Diffuse Sources to Air (maps)
- Gothenburg Protocol
- Kyoto Protocol
- United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)