Europe 2020 indicators - climate change and energy

From Statistics Explained

Data from July 2013. Most recent data:Further Eurostat information, Main tables.

This article is part of a set of statistical articles based on the Eurostat publication Smarter, greener, more inclusive? - Indicators to support the Europe 2020 strategy. It provides recent statistics on climate change and energy in the European Union (EU), key areas of the EU's Europe 2020 strategy.

As unchecked climate change would erode the foundations of modern society, the EU has committed to limiting the mean global temperature rise to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, through reducing the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Focusing on the most important one, carbon dioxide (CO2), the Europe 2020 strategy aims to turn the EU into a so-called ‘low carbon’ economy based on renewable energy sources and energy efficiency.

Europe 2020 strategy targets on climate change and energy

The Europe 2020 strategy sets three objectives for climate and energy policy, to be reached by 2020:

  • reducing GHG emissions by 20 % compared to 1990 levels;
  • increasing the share of renewables in final energy consumption to 20 %; and
  • moving towards a 20 % increase in energy efficiency.

These targets are also known as the ‘20-20-20’ targets. Additionally, the strategy points out that ‘the EU is committed to taking a decision to move to a 30 % reduction by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. The offer is conditional on other developed countries committing themselves to comparable reductions and developing countries contributing adequately’[1].

The Europe 2020 strategy's three climate and energy targets are interrelated and mutually support one another.

Figure 1: Indicators presented in the article and their links to the headline indicators on the climate change and energy targets
Figure 2: Greenhouse gas emissions, EU-27, 1990-2011
(Index 1990=100)
Source: Eurostat online data code (t2020_30)
(*) Total emissions, including international aviation, but excluding emissions from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF). The EEA reports a reduction of 18.4 % in 2011 compared to 1990 level because it focuses on domestic emissions only and thus does not include emissions from international aviation.
Figure 3: Greenhouse gas emissions, by sector, EU-27, 1990, 2000, 2005, 2011
(Million tonnes of CO2 equivalent)
Source: European Environment Agency, Eurostat online data code (tsdcc210)
Figure 4: Greenhouse gas emissions in non-ETS sectors, by country, 2011
(% change since 2005)
Source: European Commission services
(*) Total emissions, excluding emissions covered by the Emissions Trading System (ETS).
Figure 5: Global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion, 1990, 2000, 2010
(Million of tonnes of CO2)
Source: International Energy Agency
Figure 6: Global annual temperature deviations, 1850-2013
(Temperature deviation in °C, compared to 1961-1990, average)
Source: Climatic Research Unit, Universtiy of East Anglia and the UK Met Office Hadley Centre
Figure 7: Share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption, EU-27, 2004-2011
Source: Eurostat online data code (t2020_31)
Figure 8: Share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption, by country, 2005 and 2011
Source: Eurostat online data code (t2020_31)
(*) Data for BE are provisional.
Figure 9: Gross inland consumption of renewable energy, by source, Eu-27, 2011
Source: Eurostat online data code (nrg_1071a) and (nrg_1072a)
Figure 10: Gross electricity generation from renewable energy sources, EU-27, 1990-2011
(gigawatt hours)
Source: Eurostat online data code (nrg_105a)
Table 1: Primary energy consumption, EU-27, 2005-2011 (% of savings) - Source: Eurostat online data code (t2020_33)
Figure 11: Primary energy consumption and final energy consumption, EU-27, 1990-2011
Source: Eurostat online data code (t2020_33) and (tsdpc320)
Figure 12: Change in primary energy consumption, by country, 2007 and 2011
(Index 2005= 100)
Source: Eurostat online data code (t2020_30)
(*) 2010 data (instead of 2011) for CH.
Figure 13: Final energy consumption, by sector, EU-27, 1990–2011
Source: Eurostat online data code (tsdpc320)
Figure 14: Energy dependence, EU-27, 2000–2011
(% of imports in total energy demand)
Source: Eurostat online data code (tsdcc310)
(*) ‘All products’ is not the average of the other three fuel categories shown. It also includes other energy sources, such as renewable energy or nuclear energy, parts of which are treated as domestic sources.

Main statistical findings

EU’s GHG emissions are approaching the 2020 target

As a central objective of the Europe 2020 strategy, the EU as a whole aims to reduce GHG emissions (including emissions from international aviation) by 20 % compared to 1990 levels. The Effort Sharing Decision [2] establishes binding annual GHG emissions targets for Member States for emissions from sectors not included in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). By 2020, the national targets will collectively deliver a reduction of around 10 % in total EU emissions from the non-EU ETS sectors and a 21 % reduction in emissions for the sectors covered by the EU ETS (both compared to 2005 levels). This will accomplish the overall emission reduction goal of a 20 % cut below 1990 levels by 2020.

The EU ETS sets a single EU-wide cap for more than 11 000 power stations and industrial plants, as well as the aviation industry. It allows these economic actors to trade emission allowances among themselves. The cap shrinks each year so as to reach the 21 % target in 2020.

Member States’ targets for the non-EU ETS sectors (such as transport, buildings, agriculture and waste) vary between a 20 % reduction to a 20 % increase in emissions, reflecting differences in starting points and wealth [3]. In addition to these overarching instruments, the EU has set an array of policy instruments to address emissions from certain sectors and activities. The most important ones are listed in Chapter Data sources and availability.

By 2011, the EU as a whole had cut man-made GHG emissions by 17 % compared to their 1990 levels, as shown in Figure 2. This is equal to an absolute reduction of 958 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents. If emissions from international aviation are excluded, the reduction is 18.4 %, as reported by the European Environment Agency [4]. A large portion of this reduction occurred during the 1990s. Between 1990 and 1994 there was a large drop of 7.3 %, mostly due to structural changes (such as a shift from heavy manufacturing industries to more service-based economies), modernisation in industries and change from coal to gas. Emissions began to rise again in 1995, but this trend was reversed in 1998. Between 1998 and 2007 emissions stabilised at levels of 91 % to 93 %. This was mostly a result of an increase in primary energy consumption (PEC) being offset by an increase in the share of fuels with lower carbon content (in particular renewable energy sources). Significant reductions were also made in the waste sector through use of better treatment processes with a lower carbon footprint and in agriculture due to a decline in livestock numbers and nitrogenous fertiliser use[5].

The economic crisis, which began in 2008, led to an overall economic slowdown and a resulting fall in GHG emissions. A sharp drop of 7.3 % in 2009 was followed by a rebound in 2010. In 2011, however, the downward trend continued, with GHG emissions falling by 3.1 % compared to 2010 levels despite a growth in GDP of 1.7 %. The reduction was the result of lower demand for heating due to a mild winter, lower electricity consumption, particularly in France and the UK, reduced road transport and lower cement production[6].

All sectors except transport have lowered emissions since 1990

Except transport, all sectors helped to reduce the EU’s overall emissions between 1990 and 2011 (see Figure 3). In absolute terms, manufacturing industries and construction achieved the largest reduction of almost 290 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent during that period. The second largest reduction of 262 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent was achieved in the energy industries, the sector responsible for the largest share of total emissions.

By contrast, transport emissions were 19 % above 1990 levels in 2011. The sector accounted for 20 % of total EU emissions in 2011, making it the second largest source after the energy industries. The continual upward trend in transport emissions appears to have been broken. After peaking in 2007, emissions fell by 6 % over the following four years. Both the increase between 1990 and 2007 as well as the recent decline might be linked to corresponding changes in the volume of passenger and freight transport[7]. Causes for the shrinking transport volumes since 2007 [8] may include the economic downturn and a hike in fuel prices. Notwithstanding this positive trend, energy efficiency and increasing the share of renewable energy remain crucial to limiting the transport sector’s GHG emissions, particularly when economic growth picks up again.

International aviation and maritime transport is the fastest growing source category. Despite a drop during the economic crisis, emissions went up by 19.3 % between 2000 and 2011. Compared to 1990, emissions from international aviation have increased by 95 % and emissions from maritime transport by 48 %. The two categories now amount to 299 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, 6.6 % of total emissions.

All except two countries have reduced emissions since 2005

Data for 2011 on Member States’ emissions in sectors not covered by the EU ETS show 15 countries emitted less than their individual target for 2020 [9]. Five of these countries have increased emissions between 2005 and 2011, but the increase was below their national targets for 2020. This was also the case for Croatia. The remaining 12 Member States have not yet reached their individual targets, but all of them have reduced emissions between 2005 and 2011. Luxemburg and Denmark are furthest away from reaching their target, followed by Finland and the Netherlands.

Taken together, EU-27 emissions outside the EU ETS have gone down by 9.1 % compared to 2005. Thus, the 2020 target of – 9.4 % agreed in the ¬Effort Sharing Decision was almost reached in 2011, nine years in advance. This positive trend can be linked to lower primary energy consumption in the transport and building sectors, the two most important sources of non-ETS emissions. However, the decrease in energy demand is at least in parts a result of the continued economic depression and of mild winter temperatures. Emissions might rise again with higher economic growth. A continuation of the downward trend will thus depend on further efforts to bring about structural changes towards a low-carbon economy.

Global emissions and mean temperature continue to rise

Despite reductions in the EU, global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion rose by 44 % between 1990 and 2010, as shown in Figure 5. Most of the increase has taken place in emerging economies. Both in relative and in absolute terms, emission growth was strongest in China. Between 1990 and 2010, China’s annual CO2 emissions more than tripled and the country overtook the US as the world’s biggest emitter. At the same time, per-capita emissions in China still remained 28 % below EU levels in 2010. Although less important in absolute terms, emissions in the rest of Asia and the rest of the world also grew significantly in relative terms between 1990 and 2010 (160 % and 72 % respectively). As a result of these trends, the EU’s share of global emissions has been shrinking, from almost a fifth in 1990 to 12.1 % in 2010.

Rising emissions have increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere dramatically. Although there is a time lag between the emission of GHGs and the corresponding increase in average global surface temperature, recordings already show a clear upward trend (see Figure 6). Between 2001 and 2010 temperature increased by 0.88 °C compared to the first decade of the 20th century[10], and 2012 was the ninth warmest year since records began in 1850 [11]. Current projections estimate that global mean temperatures could continue to rise by as much as 1.1 °C to 6.4 °C by 2100 if GHG emissions remain at current levels[12].

In Europe and globally, the rise in temperature has already led to observable changes in the natural systems and society. Damage costs from natural disasters have increased and are likely to rise substantially more in the future. A recent European Environment Agency (EEA) assessment shows that the negative impacts of climate change will not affect European regions equally. Climate change can increase existing vulnerabilities, for example exposure to flood risk in coastal areas or drought in the Mediterranean region [13]. By hitting marginalised regions and poor people hardest, climate change might deepen socioeconomic imbalances in Europe (see Data sources and availability). Thereby, it could undermine the Europe 2000 strategy’s objective of  inclusive growth.

Despite the EU’s shrinking share in global emissions, recent findings on the potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change confirm the ongoing importance of its climate and energy goals. Emission cuts in the EU alone cannot halt climate change, but if it can show that a low-carbon economy is feasible, and can even increase innovation and employment, it will serve as a role model to other regions.

Continuous investment in advanced low-carbon technologies can also help the EU uphold technological leadership and secure export markets. A successful transformation of the energy sector, discussed in the next section, is pivotal in this respect.

More renewable energy means fewer EU emissions

Renewable energy has been growing steadily since 2004

The second energy and climate headline target of the Europe 2020 strategy is to increase the share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption to 20 % by 2020.

Between 2004 and 2011, the share of renewable energy increased by 60 %, reaching 13 % of gross final energy consumption in 2011 (see Figure 7). The two main drivers of this increase were support schemes for renewable energy technology and shrinking costs. As a result of policies such as feed-in tariffs, grants, tax credits and quota systems, installed capacity for renewable electricity and heat generation as well as the use of renewable transport fuels has grown steadily over the past decade. The EU is now the world’s biggest renewable energy investor[14]. The scaling up of global production volumes and technological advances have allowed producers to substantially cut costs per unit. Prices of photovoltaic modules experienced the biggest plunge, falling by 76 % between 2008 and 2012. Onshore wind turbines became 25 % cheaper during the same period [15]. As a result, wind and solar installations have started to become economically viable without subsidies in areas where the weather is favourable.

The expansion of renewable energy sources reduces the EU’s dependence on imported fuels and, by creating jobs, contributes to the Europe 2020 strategy’s employment objective (see the ‘ indicators to support the Europe 2020 strategy - employment’ article). The share of total energy needs met by imports from non-EU countries has increased significantly over the past two decades, reaching 53.8 % in 2011 (see Figure 14). Fossil fuels make up the largest share. The dependence on imports exposes the European economy to high price volatility, significant costs and the risk of supply shortage. Renewable energies, most of which can be sourced domestically, reduce these risks. They also generate more of their value added within EU borders compared to imported fossil fuels.

The share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption in 2011 ranged from 46.8 % in Sweden to 0.4 % in Malta (see Figure 8). The differences stem from variations in natural resources, mostly in the potential for building hydropower plants and the availability of biomass. All Member States have increased their renewable energy share between 2005 and 2011. Eight countries have doubled their share, albeit all of them from a small base. Estonia has already met its 2020 target. In 2011 Bulgaria, Sweden and Romania were closest to reaching their national targets, followed by Lithuania, Austria and the Czech Republic. The United Kingdom and France were farthest away.

Biomass dominates renewable energy, but wind and solar are expanding fast

Renewable energy can be generated from a range of sources, including hydro, wind, solar and geothermal power. Biomass, the only renewable energy source contributing to all energy use sectors (electricity generation, transport and heating and cooling), remains by far the most important source in the EU. In 2011, wood, other biomass and biomass waste provided more than two thirds of all gross inland consumption of renewable energy (see Figure 9). At the same time, wind and solar energy are growing the fastest. In 2011, the EU generated 15 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) from wind energy, an eightfold increase compared to 2000. In the same year, solar energy contributed a total of 6 Mtoe, 14 times as much as in 2000.

An analysis[16] of the EU’s renewable energy sector shows that in 2011 the renewable share was highest in the electricity sector. After rapid expansion in the past decade, renewables now contribute 20.4 % of total gross electricity generation. Hydropower remains the largest source, but is declining in relative weight as solar, wind and biogas are developing rapidly (see Figure 10).

Renewable energy provided about 14.3 % of Europe’s heating and cooling energy in 2010, up from 9.6 % in 2004. Solid biomass delivers more than 90 % of the total renewable share, followed by minor contributions from heat pumps, solar thermal and biogas[17].

In the transport sector, the share of renewables used was 3.8 % in 2011, down from 4.8 % in 2010. The drop is due to a change in methodology. The Renewable Energy Directive sets sustainability criteria for the production of liquid biomass which make up the lion’s share of renewables in transport [18]. Starting from 2011, only those biofuels certified as sustainable according to the Renewable Energy Directive are included in the Eurostat statistics. Some Member States have not yet transposed the sustainability standards into national law. Biofuels consumed in these countries are no longer included in the indicator.

Even without this statistical change, data for 2010 show that 22 Member States did not achieve their interim target of increasing renewable energy’s share to 5.75 % of final energy use in transport by 2010[19]. Additional efforts will be required to achieve the 2020 objective. The target is defined relative to the total amount of energy consumed in transport. Therefore, reducing energy needs in the transport sector for example by introducing more energy-efficient cars will also contribute to ¬achieving it.

The EU needs to further pursue energy efficiency improvements

Delivering the same service or product using less energy is one of the most cost-effective options for reducing GHG emissions. Building refurbishment, followed by the transport and industry sectors, offer the biggest potential for improvement[20].

The headline target is to increase energy efficiency by 20 %. In absolute terms this means that by 2020, EU energy consumption should not exceed 1 474 Mtoe of primary energy or 1 078 Mtoe of final energy [21].

Primary energy consumption (PEC) includes all gross inland energy consumption except energy carriers employed for non-energy purposes (for example, petroleum not used for combustion but for producing plastics). By contrast, final energy consumption only comprises the energy supplied to the final consumer’s door for all energy uses. The difference between primary and final energy consumption is equivalent to the energy losses during energy transformation (particularly electricity generation), transmission and distribution.

EU energy consumption has been falling since 2006, but the trend has not been continuous

As shown in Figure 11, PEC was relatively stable between 1990 and 1995. In 1996 it increased by about 59 Mtoe (almost 4 %), compared with the previous year. It remained almost unchanged throughout the period from 1997 to 2000, but rose again between 2001 and 2004. In 2006 PEC peaked at an annual consumption of 1 706 Mtoe. Following the economic crisis, it fell sharply (by 113 Mtoe) until 2009, reaching a level lower than in 1997. After a rebound in 2010, PEC decreased again in 2011 to 1 583 Mtoe. In 2011, the EU thus consumed roughly as much primary energy as it did in 1990 and 7 % less than in 2005. To achieve its 2020 target, the EU needs to reduce PEC by an additional 6.9 % in the nine years between 2011 and 2020.

Much of the decrease for the period from 2008 to 2010 may be attributed to the lower level of economic activity as a result of the financial and economic crisis, rather than to a structural shift in energy consumption patterns. With respect to the most recent drop of 3.7 % between 2010 and 2011, a mild winter resulting in lower heating demand also played a role [22]. The analysis underlines the need to further pursue energy efficiency measures. Continuous effort can ensure that PEC will remain on a downward path even when economic growth accelerates again.

The trend in final energy consumption has closely followed the trend in primary energy consumption, reaching 1 103 Mtoe in 2011.

Breaking the energy efficiency target down to Member State level

As shown in Figure 12, 20 Member States have reduced primary energy consumption between 2005 and 2011 by values ranging from 1 % to 27 %. A look at the data for 2007, the year before the economic crisis hit, shows that reduced economic output in addition to energy efficiency measures also helped lower consumption. In the remaining seven Member States, primary energy consumption has gone up by 1 % to 18 % since 2005, stressing the importance of additional efforts to improve energy efficiency.

Between 1990 and 2011, economic sectors developed differently with respect to final energy consumption (see Figure 13). The agriculture and forestry sector as well as industry have reduced final energy consumption by 27.7 % and 21.7 % ¬respectively. By contrast, energy consumption in the services and transport sectors has gone up by about a third over the same time period. The residential sector’s consumption has remained stable. These changes reflect sector-specific levels of energy ¬efficiency improvement, but also relate to structural changes in the EU economy, particularly a shift away from an energy-intensive industry to a service-based economy. In the case of transport, rising volumes of freight and personal transport have outweighed efficiency gains.

Despite recent reductions in energy consumption, substantial cost-efficient potentials for improvements in energy efficiency remain to be tapped. A case in point is the refurbishment of buildings which are responsible for about 40 % of final energy consumption. Other areas include transport, green procurement in the public sector, and savings along the energy supply chain from extraction to distribution.

Energy efficiency improvements can strengthen the EU’s competitiveness and lower the dependence on fossil fuel imports. The EU’s energy dependency, which describes the extent to which an economy relies on imports to meet its energy needs, has increased significantly over the past two decades (see Figure 14). It reached 53.8 % in 2011. Imports of fossil energy carriers such as petroleum, natural gas and hard coal are mostly responsible for this dependence. By contrast, most renewable energies can be sourced domestically.

Conclusions and outlook towards 2020

At first glance, the EU has made substantial progress towards achieving its energy and climate objectives. In 2011 GHG emissions were down by 17 % compared to 1990 levels, approaching the headline target of – 20 % to be reached by 2020. Primary energy consumption (PEC) fell to 1 583 Mtoe in 2011, after having grown almost continuously between 1990 and 2007. In 2011, the EU consumed 7 % less than in 2005, the base year of the energy efficiency target. To achieve the target of improving energy efficiency by 20 % by 2020, the EU has to reduce PEC by a further 6.9 % over a period of nine years.

An analysis of the driving forces behind these positive trends leads to a more cautious assessment. The strongest drop in energy consumption and GHG emissions since the early 1990s occurred between 2007 and 2011 (– 6 % and – 10 %, respectively). During this time, the economic crisis, which was followed by a slow recovery in many parts of Europe, reduced industrial production, transport volumes and energy demand. Between 2010 and 2011, a mild winter further pushed down energy demand. The most recent reductions in PEC and GHG emissions, thus, are at least in part linked to low economic performance, rather than reflecting a thorough change in how the EU produces and consumes energy.

With respect to renewable energies, progress towards a restructured low-carbon economy is clearly noticeable. Between 2004 and 2011, the share of final energy from renewable source has increased by 60 %, reaching 13 % in gross final energy consumption in 2011. Thanks to effective support schemes and dramatic cost reductions, the share of wind and solar energy has increased particularly quickly. The renewable energy industry has become a key sector for research and innovation in Europe, generating a rapidly increasing number of patents between 2000 and 2009 (see the article on research and development). In regions with favourable weather conditions and high electricity prices, solar and wind projects are becoming more and more competitive with fossil-fuel based power generation, even without subsidies.

On the global level, reductions in EU GHG emissions and energy consumption have been offset by significant increases in other parts of the world. Global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion rose by 44 % between 1990 and 2010. The increase was particularly strong in China, which more than tripled its annual CO2 emissions in these two decades.

Efforts needed to meet the Europe 2020 targets on climate change and energy

According to the latest projections by Member States, the EU-27 will overachieve its 2020 emission reduction target for the sectors not covered by the EU ETS by 0.9 %[23]. Thirteen Member States are expected to reach their targets based on existing policy measures. Some will even significantly overachieve them. Another eight could achieve their targets if they implement additional measures. The remaining six will probably not be able to reach their target even with new measures. Member States need to improve consistency in the domestic climate policy framework. Additional measures could focus on ensuring investment security for innovative green technologies and changing the tax system to give greater incentives for energy efficiency [24].

With respect to the renewable energy target, the European Commission’s recent Progress Report [25] warns that more effort will be needed to sustain investment in renewable energy projects at a high level. Compared to the National Renewable Energy Action Plans prepared by Member States, projections indicate that only 50 % of total wind generation planned in 2020 might actually be produced[26]. By contrast, projections for electricity generation from photovoltaics are above planned levels. In its progress report, the European Commission also states that fundamental changes to the support schemes in some Member States have raised the regulatory risk for investors. This has added to an already difficult financing environment. The Commission also concludes that the removal of planning and licensing administrative barriers is not occurring fast enough.

As foreseen by the Europe 2020 strategy, tapping the remaining greenhouse gas reduction potential can have significant socioeconomic and environmental benefits. This has been demonstrated in the ‘Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050’ [27]. The EU can create jobs in high-technology industries; it can become a lead market in fields with high global demand and reduce energy dependence. More renewables and improved energy efficiency could save the EU between EUR 175 and 320 billion of energy import costs per year over the next 40 years [28]. As recognised in the flagship initiative ‘Innovation Union’ , a push for technological and policy innovation will be crucial to accomplishing this transformation.

Data sources and availability

The analysis presented here is based on the three headline indicators that have been chosen to monitor each of the climate and energy targets:

  • 1. GHG emissions
  • 2. Share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption
  • 3. Primary energy consumption

Contextual indicators are used to present a broader picture, looking into the drivers behind the changes in the headline indicators. Changes in EU GHG emissions will be analysed in relation to the underlying sectoral trends. EU trends will then be compared with information on the global trend in GHG emissions and its impact on global mean temperature and the climate system. The analysis will then turn to the two most important measures for cutting EU emissions, namely energy supplied from renewable sources and energy efficiency. For both fields, progress at the EU and Member State levels will be assessed with a special focus on the wider socioeconomic effects of the emerging green economy.

The EU’s ‘20-20-20’ targets are interlinked with the other Europe 2020 goals, in particular those for research and development (R&D) and employment. A greater capacity for R&D as well as innovation across all sectors of the economy, combined with increased resource efficiency will improve competitiveness and foster job creation [29].

Key policy instruments to reduce GHG emissions

The EU has adopted a number of instruments to complement the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) and the Effort Sharing Decision (ESD). The most relevant, given the energy sector’s importance as a major source of emissions, are those underlying the renewable energy and energy efficiency targets.

The Renewable Energy Directive [30] sets a framework for promoting energy from renewable sources. It establishes mandatory national targets, detailed planning and regular monitoring re-quirements, and rules on simplifying administrative procedures. Within this framework, Member States have leeway to develop their own support schemes for renewable technologies.

The 2012 Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) creates an overarching framework for efficiency improvement in the Member States to ensure that the energy efficiency EU headline target is met. It is complemented by sector-specific instruments such as the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (11) setting standards on insulation in newly built buildings, the Ecodesign Directive (12) defining performance standards for energy-using products and the Energy Taxation Directive (13) which sets minimum rates for energy products.

To increase energy efficiency in the transport sector, the EU has set mandatory emissions reduction targets for new passenger cars (14). The fleet standards go down to an average of 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre by 2020. Similarly, the Vans Regulation (15) limits CO2 emissions from new vans to a fleet average of 175 grams of CO2 per kilometre by 2017.

The consequences of climate change

In Europe, coastal erosion and flooding due to sea-level rise, as well as more extreme weather events such as storms and heat waves, are the most important threats to humans and infrastructure. In Southern Europe, problems of water availability and more frequent droughts threaten to lower crop productivity even with a temperature rise of 1 °C to 2 °C, putting the region’s agricultural sector at risk [31].

Climate change will also impact human and animal health. Heat-related net extra deaths in the EU are projected to reach 86 000 per year in 2071–2100 relative to 1961–1990 if global mean temperature increases by 3 °C. Disasters such as floods and storms and new diseases are likely to cause additional loss of life[32].

Ecosystems and biodiversity in Europe are already impacted by climate change. For example, water temperatures in lakes and rivers have increased, leading to more frequent algal blooms and forcing some species to move northwards. This can reduce fish populations, threatening the economy and livelihood of coastal communities [33].

Implementing the EU renewable energy target in the Member States

The EU’s renewable energy target has been broken down into national targets that reflect differ-ences in resource base and wealth.

To ensure the renewable energy targets are met, the Renewable Energy Directive [34] requires Member States to put in place support schemes and remove administrative barriers with respect to authorisation, certification and licensing of renewable energy plants.

In 2010 all Member States developed national renewable energy action plans (NREAPs), detailing how they plan to achieve their target, including interim targets and trajectories per sector and technology.

Based on this planned development they report on progress to the European Commission every two years. In addition, Member States report on their national renewable energy targets in the National Reform Programmes under the Europe 2020 strategy.

Measuring progress towards the EU energy efficiency target

The third Europe 2020 headline target on climate change and energy is to achieve a 20 % im-provement in the EU’s energy efficiency. According to the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) [35], the EU efficiency target is measured as a 20 % saving compared to a hypothetical projection for EU primary energy consumption (PEC). Starting with the 2005 base year, this business-as-usual projection (carried out in 2007) expected a primary energy consumption of 1 842 Mtoe in 2020. It assumed continuous economic growth and no additional energy efficiency policies above and beyond those in place in 2005.

The envisaged 20 % saving amounts to an absolute saving of 368 Mtoe, resulting in a target value of no more than 1 474 Mtoe PEC for 2020. Compared to the level of PEC in 2005, this is equivalent to a reduction of 13.5 %. For all years between 2005 and 2020, the PEC savings indicate the percentage achieved towards the target. The indicator is calculated for the EU as a whole only, and not for individual Member States (see Table 1).

It is important to note that the economic growth in the EU since 2008 has been much lower than the projections underlying the energy efficiency target assume. Given that growth is a key driver of energy consumption, the savings expressed in relation to the virtual projection need to be treated with caution. They do not necessarily mean that EU products and services are produced with less energy input per unit and are thus more energy-efficient; they can also result from lower production levels.

National energy efficiency targets

The Energy Efficiency Directive requires Member States to set indicative national energy efficiency targets for 2020. These can be based on different indicators (primary or final energy consumption, or primary or final energy savings, or energy intensity). To make these targets comparable, the Directive also requires each Member State to ‘translate’ its target into levels of primary and final energy consumption in 2020. In addition, Member States need to explain how this has been calculated[36]. All Member States but two have set their targets by 30 April 2013[37]. However, not all have expressed these targets in absolute primary and final levels in 2020, as requested. In 2013, the European Commission will assess if the individual national targets add up to the savings agreed at EU level.


Climate change and energy — why do they matter?

By changing weather patterns, redrawing coastlines and degrading natural ecosystems, unchecked climate change threatens to erode the foundations on which modern society is built. To avoid dangerous levels of warming, the EU has committed to limiting the mean global temperature rise to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. This objective was endorsed by the international community in 2009 [38]. To contribute to this global goal, the EU has pledged to continually reduce the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) it emits. The Europe 2020 strategy has renewed this commitment, aiming to turn the EU into an economy in which production and consumption processes emit little or no carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions — a so-called ‘low carbon’ economy. Among all greenhouse gases, emissions of CO2 are the most important.

The transition towards a low-carbon economy is not only a strategy to prevent catastrophic climate change. Climate and energy policies contribute to the Europe 2020 strategy’s core objective of enabling sustainable growth. A push for renewable energies and energy efficiency, the main levers for reducing emissions, can spur innovation and create jobs. According to the 2012 ‘Employment package’, implementing energy efficiency measures could create or retain two million jobs by 2020. The potential from development of the renewable energy sector is estimated at three million jobs by this date [39]. In the race to master new technologies such as smart grids, energy storage or electric vehicles, it is key to create demand for ever-better green products, boosting innovation and export strength in this growing global market. At the same time, more efficient energy use boosts the competitiveness of EU businesses by lowering pro-duction costs.

A low-carbon economy also generates wider socioeconomic benefits. It improves the current account balance by replacing a share of the EU’s fossil fuel imports with domestic resources. Climate and energy policies help reduce air pollution and the health risks it poses. This lowers health costs and increases well-being, particularly in cities. Many measures to reduce GHG emissions, particularly energy savings, also lower the use of other resources such as metals and minerals. In return, many resource efficiency measures reduce emissions. Thus, there is a great potential for synergies with the Europe 2020 strategy’s goal of making the EU more resource-efficient[40]. One of the strategy’s flagship initiatives is ‘A resource-efficient ¬Europe’. It aims to create a framework for policies to support the shift towards a resource-efficient and low-carbon economy. To ensure the statistical support for the strategy Eurostat disseminates on its website a Scoreboard that comprises about 30 indicators tracking the progress towards a resource efficient Europe (see ‘Resource Efficiency Scoreboard').

The Europe 2020 strategy’s three climate and energy targets are interrelated and mutually support each other. Energy used for electricity generation, heating and cooling, and transport is responsible for the lion’s share of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, reducing energy use and switching to low-carbon, renewable energy sources are the major levers for cutting emissions. Moreover, a decrease in final energy consumption makes it easier to reach the renewable energy target.

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Other information

External links


  1. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Copenhagen Accord, Copenhagen: United Nations, 2009.
  2. Council Decision 2009/406/EC on the effort of Member States to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to meet the Community’s greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments up to 2020
  3. See
  4. EEA, Annual greenhouse gas inventory 1990–2011 and inventory report 2013. EEA Report No. 8/2013. Copenhagen 2013, (p. 6).
  5. Viktoria Bolla and Velina Pendolovska, Driving forces behind EU-27 greenhouse gas emissions over the decade 1999–2008, Statistics in focus 10/2011, Luxembourg: Eurostat, 2011, (p. 2).
  6. EEA, Annual greenhouse gas inventory 1990–2011 and inventory report 2013. EEA Report No. 8/2013. Copenhagen 2013, (p. 9).
  7. Viktoria Bolla and Velina Pendolovska, Driving forces behind EU-27 greenhouse gas emissions over the decade 1999–2008, Statistics in Focus 10/2011, Luxembourg: Eurostat, 2011, (p. 5).
  8. At the time of writing of this analysis, 2011 data on GHG emissions from Member States were not available.
  9. EEA, Greenhouse Gas Emission Trends and Projections in Europe 2012. Tracking Progress towards Kyoto and 2020 Targets, EEA Report No. 6/2012. Copenhagen, 2012.
  10. World Meteorological Organization, The global climate 2001–2010. A decade of climate extremes, WMO-No. 1119, Geneva, 2013, (p. 3).
  11. World Meteorological Organization, WMO statement on the status of the global climate in 2012, WMO, No 1108, Geneva, 2013, (p. 6).
  12. EEA, The European environment — state and outlook 2010: Synthesis Report, Copenhagen, 2010.
  13. EEA, Climate change impacts and vulnerability in 2012, Copenhagen 2013.
  14. McCrone, Angus et al, Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2012. Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, commissioned by UNEP’s Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE) and endorsed by REN21, Frankfurt, 2012.
  15. McCrone, Angus et al, Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2012. Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, commissioned by UNEP’s Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE) and endorsed by REN21, Frankfurt, 2012, (p. 32).
  16. Ecofys et al., Renewable energy progress and biofuels sustainability, London, 2012, (p. 38).
  17. Ecofys et al., Renewable energy progress and biofuels sustainability, London, 2012, (p. 38).
  18. Marek Sturc, Renewable Energy: Analysis of the latest data from renewable sources. Statistics in Focus 44/2012, Eurostat: Luxembourg, 2012.
  19. European Commission, Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of The Regions: Renewable energy progress report. (SWD (2013) 102 final), Brussels, 2013, (p. 4).
  20. European Commission, Energy Efficiency Plan 2011, COM (2011) 109 final, Brussels, 2011.
  21. European Commission, Directive 2012/27/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on energy efficiency, amending Directives 2009/125/EC and 2010/30/EU and repealing Directives 2004/8/EC and 2006/32/EC. European Commission, Brussels, 2012, Art. 3 a).
  22. European Commission, Europe 2020 targets: climate change and energy (accessed 23 July 2013).
  23. European Commission, Europe 2020 targets: climate change and energy (accessed 23 July 2013).
  24. European Commission, Europe 2020 targets: climate change and energy (accessed 23 July 2013).
  25. European Commission, Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of The Regions: Renewable energy progress report. European Commission, Brussels, 2013.
  26. European Commission, Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of The Regions: Renewable energy progress report. European Commission, Brussels, 2013, (p. 5).
  27. European Commission, A Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050, Brussels, 2011.
  28. European Commission, A Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050, Brussels, 2011.
  29. European Commission, Europe 2020 — A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, COM(2010) 2020 final, Brussels, 2010.
  30. Directive 2009/28/EC of the European Parliament and the European Council on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources and amending and subsequently repealing Directives 2001/77/EC and 2003/30/EC, 2009.
  31. EEA, Climate change impacts and vulnerability in 2012, Copenhagen 2013.
  32. European Commission, Impact Assessment — Part 2 accompanying the document An EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change, SWD(2013) 132 final, (p. 37–40).
  33. European Environmental Agency, Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe, 2012, Copenhagen 2013
  34. Directive 2009/28/EC of the European Parliament and the European Council on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources and amending and subsequently repealing Directives 2001/77/EC and 2003/30/EC, 2009.
  35. European Commission, Directive 2012/27/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on energy efficiency, amending Directives 2009/125/EC and 2010/30/EU and repealing Directives 2004/8/EC and 2006/32/EC. European Commission, Brussels, 2012, Art. 3 a).
  36. European Commission, Directive 012/27/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on energy efficiency, amending Directives 2009/125/EC and 2010/30/EU and repealing Directives 2004/8/EC and 2006/32/EC. European Commission, Brussels, 2012, Art. 3
  37. European Commission, Europe 2020 targets: climate change and energy (accessed 23 July 2013).
  38. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Copenhagen Accord, Copenhagen: United Nations, 2009.
  39. European Commission, Renewable energy: progressing towards the 2020 target, COM (2011) 31 final, Brussels, 2011 (p. 2).
  40. European Commission, A resource-efficient Europe — Flagship initiative under the Europe 2020 Strategy, COM (2011) 21, Brussels, 2011, (p. 2).