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Emissions Trading: Greenhouse gas emissions reduced by 13.3% in 2020

It is reported that greenhouse gas emissions from operators covered by the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) fell by 13.3% in 2020 compared to 2019 levels. This reduction resulted from an 11.2% decrease in emissions from stationary installations and a 64.1% decrease in emissions from aviation.

As one of the sectors most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic, aviation saw the steepest reduction in emissions (-64.1%). The power sector witnessed a 14.9% decrease, reflecting both reduced electricity consumption due to the pandemic and previously identified decarbonisation trends. These include both the switch from coal to natural gas-fired power generation, and the replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy sources.

Emissions from industry decreased by an average of 7%, with reductions observed in most sectors, including iron and steel (-11.7%), cement (-5.1%), chemicals (-4%) and refineries (-8.1%). However, with current data, it is not yet possible to determine what proportion of these reductions is due to increased emissions efficiency.

Emissions from stationary installations reduced considerably

Verified emissions of greenhouse gases from stationary installations (power plants and manufacturing installations) amounted to 1.331 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent in 2020. This is an 11.2% drop compared to 2019.

Airlines' emissions: sectoral crisis drives decrease in emissions

Under the EU ETS Directive, all commercial aircraft operators, and non-commercial aircraft operators with significant emissions, are accountable for their emissions from flights within the European Economic Area (EEA) in 2013-2023.

Verified emissions from aircraft operators amounted to 24.5 million tonnes of CO2 in 2020. This was approximately 64.1% lower than the 68.2 million tonnes of CO2 in 2019. It is, however, not possible with current data to determine how much of this reduction can be attributed to gains in emissions efficiency. Almost a two-third decrease in greenhouse gas emissions is surely significant. Yet, from what the Commission has pointed out, it looks like we still need some time to see COVID-19 pandemic's long-term effects on the reduction of emissions.


Under the EU ETS, all operators (stationary installations and airlines) were required to report their verified emissions of 2020 by 31 March 2021. Although not yet definitive, reporting is higher than 95% for most sectors and countries. The verified emissions data was made available on the public website of the European Union Transaction Log (EUTL) on 1 April 2021.

Source: European Commission Directorate-General for Climate Action


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