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Reducing greenhouse gases by 2020

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Reducing greenhouse gases by 2020

This Decision contributes to meeting the commitment made by the European Union to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 % by 2020 in relation to 1990 levels. It sets objectives for reducing emissions for each of the Member States and defines the means for checking whether they have been met.


Decision No 406/2009/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 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.


This Decision sets out minimum contributions for Member States in terms of greenhouse gas emissions , following commitments made by the Union for the period from 2013 to 2020.

Emission levels for the period from 2013 to 2020 and flexibility

Each Member State has annual emissions quotas forming a linear trajectory from 2013 to 2020. Each year between 2013 and 2020, Member States’ emissions must be lower than the corresponding annual emissions quota. The annual emissions quota for 2020 corresponds to the percentage fixed in Annex II to the Decision for each Member State.

During the period from 2013 to 2019, a Member State may carry forward from the following year a quantity of up to 5 % of its annual emission allocation . The unused part of the quota may be carried over to subsequent years. It is also possible, under certain conditions, to transfer a part of this allocation to other Member States.

Energy efficiency

In 2012, the European Commission will assess the progress achieved by the Community and Member States with regard to the implementation of the Action Plan for Energy Efficiency. Following this assessment, the Commission shall propose strengthened or new measures, if necessary.

Use of credits from project activities

In order to fulfil their obligations, Member States may use the following greenhouse gas emission reduction credits:

  • Directive 2003/87/EC during the period 2008-2012 and corresponding to projects registered before 31 December 2012;
  • CERs issued for emission reductions from projects implemented in LDCs;
  • Temporary CERs or long-term CERs resulting from afforestation or reforestation projects

Each year, Member States may transfer up to 3 % of their unused annual allocation to another Member State. They may also carry over the unused part to subsequent years.

Reporting, evaluation of progress, amendments and review

Pursuant to Decision 280/2004/EC , Member States must declare the following in their reports:

  • their annual greenhouse gas emissions;
  • use, geographical distribution and types of credit used;
  • forecasted progress and national projections;
  • information on policies and national measures.

Every two years, the Community will evaluate progress achieved and compliance with commitments.

Corrective action

If the emission allocations which have been set are exceeded, the Member State concerned must take the following steps:

  • a deduction from the Member State’s emission allocation of the following year;
  • the development of a corrective action plan;
  • the temporary suspension of the eligibility to transfer to another Member State part of their emission allocation and rights to use credits from project activities.

Adjustments applicable upon the approval by the Community of an international agreement on climate change

Following the signing of an international agreement on climate change by the Community providing for a reduction of 20 % in greenhouse gas emissions compared with 1990, the Commission has to present, in the three next months, a report on the following points:

  • the nature of measures decided at international level;
  • options required at Community level in order to move to the 30 % reduction target endorsed by the European Council of March 2007;
  • the impact on the competitiveness of industry and agriculture, including carbon leakage risks;
  • the impact of the international agreement on other economic sectors;
  • accounting methods for emissions to land use and forestry;
  • modalities relating to afforestation, reforestation, deforestation and forest degradation in third countries;
  • the need for additional policies and measures.


The objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), approved by Decision 94/69/EC, is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations. It is essential that the global annual temperature does not exceed 2o C above pre-industrial levels. In this regard, emissions of these gases should be reduced by 50 % by 2050.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Decision 406/2009/EC



OJ L140 of 5.6.2009


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Analysis of options to move beyond 20 % greenhouse gas emission reductions and assessing the risk of carbon leakage [ COM(2010) 265 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

This Communication analyses the effects of a policy which could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 %.

The 2008 economic crisis caused a sharp decrease in CO2 emissions. In fact, greenhouse gas emissions recorded in the European Union (EU) in 2009 fell by 14 % in relation to 1990 levels, even though the decrease recorded in 2008 was only 11.6 %.

As a result the possibility of moving beyond the 2020 objective seems realistic if the following options are implemented:

  • adapt the emissions trading system by setting aside a share of the allowances planned for auction;
  • reward fast movers that invest in top performing technology in terms of reducing emissions by allocating them extra free allowances;
  • establish carbon taxes;
  • use EU policies to encourage emission reductions;
  • use the instruments of international credits to encourage the adoption of top performing technologies in emissions reduction.

However, the Communication highlights that the total cost of reducing emissions by 30 %, taking into account the costs associated with achieving the objective of 20 % reduction, could be EUR 81 billion. This amount considerably exceeds the initial cost of the climate-energy package, estimated at EUR 70 billion.

It is also important that the objective of reducing CO2 emissions by 30 % is also implemented by third countries so as to avoid the risk of carbon leakage. International coordination at this level is, therefore, vital.

Decision No 529/2013/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on accounting rules on greenhouse gas emissions and removals resulting from activities relating to land use, land-use change and forestry and on information concerning actions relating to those activities.

This decision sets out the accounting rules applicable to emissions and absorption of greenhouse gases resulting from land-use, land-use change and forestry activities (LULUCF), a first step towards the integration of these activities in the commitment made by the Union on the subject of emissions reduction. It states the Member States' obligation to communicate information regarding LULUCF actions with a view to limiting or reducing emissions and maintaining or reinforcing absorption but does not state accountancy obligations or obligations regarding declarations on the part of private entities.

Last updated: 27.02.2014