EU’s CO2 footprint continues to decrease

In 2019, the EU emitted around 3.1 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2, less than 9% of the worldwide CO2 emissions for that year. Consumption in the EU was responsible for 3.4 Gt of CO2 emissions, representing 10% of global CO2 emissions.

Using the FIGARO Multi-Regional Input-Output (MRIO) model, Eurostat estimates the volume of CO2 emitted in the rest of the world serving the EU consumption at 0.9 Gt, while around 2.5 Gt were emitted by the EU production system for EU consumption.


On the other hand, almost 0.6 Gt CO2 were emitted by the EU economy for the production of goods that were exported to the rest of the world. This means that in 2019, the emissions embodied in imported goods and services were higher than the emissions embodied in the EU’s exports, making the EU a net importer of embodied CO2 emissions.

Compared with 2010, the balance has improved on EU’s side. While CO2 emissions in the EU embodied in exported goods are estimated to be stable (0.6 Gt), CO2 emissions generated outside the EU for its consumption decreased by about 8%, from almost 1.0 Gt in 2010 to 0.9 Gt in 2019. Thanks to a similar reduction of CO2 emissions for goods and services produced in the EU for domestic consumption, the EU’s total CO2 footprint decreased from 4.0 Gt in 2010 to 3.6 Gt in 2018 and then to 3.4 Gt in 2019. It’s important to note that at the same time, EU’s consumption of goods and services increased, which means that the EU production system managed to produce more goods and services with less COemitted.

Most CO2 emissions imported for EU consumption emitted in China, Russia and the United States

Around 0.9 Gt of global CO2 emissions serving EU consumption originated from non-EU countries in 2019. China was the most important source of these CO2 emissions, representing 27% of the total emissions in the rest of the world and reflecting its role as the EU’s main trading partner for imports. Russia accounted for 0.11 Gt CO2 emissions (12%) followed by the United States (8%) and India (6%).

In absolute terms, imported emissions from these countries decreased between 2010 and 2019, except for those from India.

Moderate progress on SDG13 – climate action

Eurostat published yesterday the 2022 monitoring report on progress towards the SDGs in an EU context, which shows that over the last five years the climate action goal (SDG 13) has had moderate progress. This goal calls for urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. It aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C – preferably to 1.5°C – compared with pre-industrial times.

For more on this goal, you can visit our digital publication “SDGs & me” and our visualisation tool “SDG country scores”.

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Methodological notes: 

  • The CO2 footprints are calculated applying Leontief type of modelling, using FIGARO inter-country input-output tables (ICIOT) as main input and CO2 emissions as an environmental extension. Carbon footprints by private households are not included in the calculations of the model, since they are not covered by the ICIOT, so they are added separately to the final results.
  • FIGARO stands for ‘Full International and Global Accounts for Research in input-Output analysis’. They are also known as EU inter-country Supply, Use and Input-Output tables (EU IC-SUIOTs). FIGARO tables are a new statistical product of the integrated global accounts for economic modelling. They link national accounts and data on business, trade and jobs.