Greenhouse gas emissions by industries and households

From Statistics Explained

Data from March 2014. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: April 2015.

This article analyses the emissions of three greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the European Union (EU) on the basis of an analysis of the industries and households that are responsible for their generation. It briefly explains the differences between the data on GHG emissions reported under the Regulation 0691/2011 on European environmental economic accounting and the data reported to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol.

Figure 1: Greenhouse gas
(CO2, CH4 and N2O) emissions by economic activity, EU-27, 2000 and 2011 (1)
(% of total emissions in CO2 equivalents) - Source: Eurostat (env_ac_ainah_r1) and (env_ac_ainah_r2)
Figure 2: Greenhouse gas emissions by economic activity and by pollutant, EU-27, 2011 (1)
(1 000 tonnes of CO2 equivalents) - Source: Eurostat (env_ac_ainah_r1) and (env_ac_ainah_r2)
Table 1: Greenhouse gas emissions by economic activity, 2011
(1 000 tonnes of CO2 equivalents) - Source: Eurostat (env_ac_ainah_r1) and (env_ac_ainah_r2)
Figure 3: Greenhouse gas intensity by economic activity, EU-27, 2000 and 2011
(kg of CO2 equivalents per euro) - Source: Eurostat (env_ac_ainah_r1), (env_ac_ainah_r2) and (nama_nace64_k)
Table 2: Differences between inventories and accounts - Source: Eurostat (env_ac_ainah_r1), (env_ac_ainah_r2) and (nama_nace64_k)
Table 3: Global warming potential weighting factors - Source: Eurostat (env_ac_ainah_r1), (env_ac_ainah_r2) and (nama_nace64_k)

Main statistical findings

Greenhouse gas emissions

For the purpose of this article, greenhouse gas emissions comprise carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4). Fluorinated gases (hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride), which are responsible for about 2 % of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, are not included in this analysis.

Emissions of the three gases resulting from the activities of various industries and households in the EU-27 stood in 2011 at 4.66 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents.

Analysis by economic activity

In 2011, the supply of electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning had the largest share of the EU-27’s greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 27 % of the total. Emissions from the supply of electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning result from fossil fuel combustion for electricity generation and district heating, but do not include emissions from combustion in individual houses or households. Manufacturing’s share of all emissions was around 20 %, meaning that manufacturing and the supply of electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning together contributed nearly half (47 %) of all greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-27 in 2011. Households accounted for 18 % of greenhouse gas emissions, while agriculture, forestry and fishing were responsible for a further 12 % which was the same as the combined share of other services, water supply and construction — see Figure 1.

While transport services (including land, water and air transport) had a relatively low share of all emissions in 2011 (10 %) it should be noted that this encompasses only commercial transport (for hire and reward) and so excludes the own-account operation of motor vehicles by other activities as well as the operation of motor vehicles by private households. The remaining 2 % share shown in Figure 1 was for mining and quarrying.

Developments between 2000 and 2011

In the EU-27, overall greenhouse gas emissions were 9.6 % lower in 2011 than they had been in 2000, resulting from emissions being 492 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents lower. Despite this quite significant decrease in the overall emissions of greenhouse gases, there were quite small shifts in the structure of emissions according to economic activity. Comparing the shares in 2000 with those in 2011, the main changes were the relatively large falls in the shares for mining and quarrying and to a lesser extent manufacturing, which could be contrasted against an increased share for transport.

In absolute terms the largest decrease was recorded for manufacturing, falling from 1.19 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalents in 2000 to 930 million tonnes in 2011, a decrease of 21.8 %. Households in the EU-27 reduced their emissions by 91 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents (a reduction of 9.7 %) during the same time period.

Although the share of all emissions accounted for by the supply of electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning increased slightly between 2000 and 2011, the level of emissions from these activities fell by 90 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents, a fall of 6.7 % in relative terms. Emissions from agriculture, forestry and fisheries fell by 48 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents (an 8.0 % fall in relative terms), while emissions from mining and quarrying fell by 42 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents, a reduction of 36.4 % which was the largest relative decrease among all of the activities shown in Figure 1. The smallest fall in relative terms (-3.8 %) and absolute terms (-22 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents) was recorded for other services, water supply and construction. As such, transport was the only economic activity where greenhouse gas emissions increased between 2000 and 2011 in the EU-27, rising by 14.8 % (an increase of 58 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents).

Analysis across the EU Member States

Among the EU Member States, there was a mixed picture as to the relative importance of the contributions made by the various economic activities and households to greenhouse gas emissions; these differences are, in part, due to different economic structures and different mixes of non-renewable and renewable energy sources. In most Member States the activity concerning the supply of energy, gas, steam and air conditioning was the main producer of greenhouse gases in 2011, followed by manufacturing (see Table 1). The most notable exceptions were Ireland and Latvia where agriculture, forestry and fishing were the main source of emissions, Denmark, Luxemburg and Malta where transport was the main source, and France where households were the main source.

Greenhouse gas intensity

The ratio of greenhouse gas emissions (in tonnes of CO2 equivalents) to gross value added (in million euros) measures the greenhouse gas intensity of economic activities; gross value added is calculated in basic prices, and the time series are compiled using chain-linked volumes to eliminate the effect of inflation. With 7.4 kg of CO2 equivalents per euro the supply of electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning had by far the highest greenhouse gas intensity in the EU-27 in 2011. Agriculture, forestry and fishing had the second highest greenhouse gas intensity, around 3.0 kg of CO2 equivalents per euro and this grouping of economic activities was also the only one in which emissions of methane and nitrous oxide were higher than those of carbon dioxide. Between 2000 and 2011, the largest fall in greenhouse gas intensity in relative terms was observed for manufacturing (-30.7 %), while the biggest reduction in absolute terms was observed for the supply of electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning (-1.2 kg of CO2 equivalents per euro). There were also reductions in intensity for the other activities shown in Figure 3, except for transport, for which there was a slight increase (4.4 %).

Data sources and availability

Emission accounts versus emission inventories

In the reporting of emissions of greenhouse gases (as well as air pollutants) two different approaches are internationally established — air emissions accounts and national air emission inventories, the latter used, for example, for reporting obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Significant differences between the totals for air emission inventories and air emissions accounts may occur in certain countries where very large companies are resident that engage in international water and air transport services. For instance, in Denmark, carbon dioxide emissions reported in the accounts are 95 % higher than those reported in inventories. This difference is due to a very large Danish shipping business operating vessels worldwide and hence bunkering most of its fuel and emitting most of its emissions outside Denmark: these emissions abroad are not accounted for in the Danish emission inventory. For the EU as a whole the differences between totals from air emissions accounts and from emission inventories are much less pronounced. Table 2 shows the main conceptual differences between inventories and accounts.

Analysis by economic activity

In air emissions accounts, the emissions data are organised according to an analysis by economic activity, using NACE, the same statistical classification of economic activities as used in national accounts which makes it possible to have an integrated environmental-economic analysis to supplement traditional economic data. Economic activities encompass all businesses resident in a country, including those operating ships, aircraft and other transportation equipment in other countries.

Air emissions accounts also include households as consumers. Their emissions are accounted for whenever household consumption is directly responsible for environmental pressures. For example, emissions from a privately owned car are counted under households, whereas cars owned by transport businesses (such as taxis) are counted under transport.

Air emissions data for 2000 are classified using NACE Rev. 1.1, whereas data for 2011 relate to NACE Rev. 2. In order to ensure comparability over time the activities are grouped accordingly. The following activity groupings are used in this article:

  • agriculture, forestry and fishing — NACE Rev. 2 Section A (NACE Rev. 1.1 Sections A and B);
  • mining and quarrying — NACE Rev. 2 Section B (NACE Rev. 1.1 Section C);
  • manufacturing — NACE Rev. 2 Section C (NACE Rev. 1.1 Section D);
  • electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply — NACE Rev. 2 Section D (NACE Rev. 1.1 Division 40);
  • transport — NACE Rev. 2 Divisions 49, 50 and 51 (NACE Rev. 1.1 Divisions 60, 61 and 62);
  • other services, water supply and construction — all remaining economic activities as defined in NACE Rev. 2 or NACE Rev. 1.1;
  • households — households as consumers.

CO2 equivalents

Air emissions accounts record emissions of greenhouse gases by emitting economic activities and households.

The quantity of emissions of individual greenhouse gases are converted into CO2 equivalents and then aggregated. A single kilogramme of methane has 21 times the global warming effect of a kilogram of carbon dioxide, and a kilogram of nitrous oxide has 310 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide (see Table 3). The use of a common unit — kilogramme of CO2 equivalent — allows the relative effect of different gases to be compared and combined.

Compilation approach

The source for Eurostat's air emissions accounts is annual data transmitted by the 28 EU Member States, as well as the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries and candidate countries. Regulation (EU) No. 691/2011 on European environmental economic accounts stipulates the data requirements of air emissions accounts.

Countries use two approaches for compiling air emissions accounts.

  1. The inventory-first-approach starts from existing national emission inventories and re-arranges those data to a format compatible with national accounts. There is a correspondence to NACE and households for each inventory source code: the Selected Nomenclature for sources of Air Pollution (SNAP), the Common Reporting Framework (CRF), and the Nomenclature For Reporting (NFR). However, the correspondence is not always a one to one relationship and certain models and transformations are required.
  2. The energy-first-approach starts from energy statistics/balances which are rearranged to form energy accounts from which air emissions are calculated using emission factors. Each country applies its individual methodological steps depending on the primary statistical sources available.

Carbon footprint

Air emissions accounts data are used for modelling, especially for the so-called carbon footprint. Eurostat estimates the impact of CO2 emissions on the environment from the final use of products. For this purpose CO2 emissions from air emissions accounts are added to the consolidated supply and use tables and input–output tables for the EU. This results in environmentally extended input–output tables which facilitate an analysis of the impact of CO2 emissions on the environment from a production perspective and from a consumption perspective.

From a consumption perspective, CO2 emissions consist of those induced by final consumption (including the CO2 that is embedded within imports; these emissions arise from the worldwide production chains of goods that are imported), of direct emissions from households, and of those resulting from production-related investments. CO2 emissions that are embedded within exported products are included in the accounts of the importer, not the exporter.

From a production perspective, the carbon footprint consists of direct emissions from households and emissions of domestic industries, including the CO2 that is embedded within imports for intermediate and final use.


Air emissions accounts are a statistical means of measuring the interplay between the economy and the environment with respect to air emissions, 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. The data obtained from air emissions 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.

This need to supplement information on the economy with environmental indicators was recognised in a European Commission Communication titled ‘GDP and beyond’ (COM(2009) 433). Furthermore, similar recommendations were made within the so-called Stiglitz report, released by the European Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. Such recommendations support the analysis of statistics on human well-being to supplement economic indicators such as GDP, for example, by including physical indicators related to the environment.

See also

Further Eurostat information



Air emissions accounts by industry and households (NACE Rev. 2) (env_ac_ainah_r2))
Air emissions accounts totals in NACE Rev. 2 bridging to emission inventory totals (env_ac_aibrid_r2)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

External links