Monitoring Greenhouse Gases

Changes to the current mechanisms for monitoring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions at both national and EU level are on the way. The European Commission, which last week proposed a Regulation that would make the changes, says that more accurate data on emissions would make it easier for the EU and Member States to assess whether they are on track to meet their emission targets, and to identify areas where further improvements need to be made.

As well as aiming to improve to the existing mechanisms regarding the transparency, accuracy and consistency of data, the proposal broadens the scope of the current legislation by including new sectors of monitoring and reporting, namely emissions from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF), aviation, and maritime transport.

The Regulation would replace the current Monitoring Mechanisms Decision (280/2004/EC) implementing the Kyoto Protocol and establishing a framework for monitoring anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions by sources and greenhouse gas removals by sinks. The new Regulation would aim to provide greater transparency in the data and information provided and to ensure compliance with the EU's climate change commitments.


The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol seek to stabilise greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere at a level which prevents dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.

When ratifying the Protocol, the EU and Member States decided to assume joint responsibility for the fulfilment by the EU of its emission reduction commitment (8% below 1990 levels by 2008-2012). A second commitment period by the EU under the Kyoto Protocol is still in doubt but will be decided at the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Durban on 28 November – 9 December 2011.  Given the requirements of the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, there is a need for thorough monitoring and regular assessment of EU GHG emissions, as well as the actions taken, in order to assess whether reduction commitments are fulfilled.

The current emissions monitoring mechanism is regulated by Decision No 280/2004/EC which implements the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol requirements. The Commission decided that the Decision should be replaced following six years of experience highlighting areas in the current regime where improvements are needed and also to incorporate developments at international and EU level.

At EU level, the Climate and Energy Package introducing the 20% emissions reduction target was adopted in 2009. Included in the Package was the Efforts Sharing Decision (No 406/2009/EC) establishing annual binding GHG emission targets for Member States for the period 2013–2020 for sectors not already covered by the EU ETS, such as transport, housing, agriculture and waste. The Package included an amendment of the Emissions Trading Scheme Directive (2009/29/EC) improving and extending the existing system. The EU system for monitoring and reporting emissions needs to be updated in the light of the new legislation.

The new Regulation

The expected Regulation would broaden the scope of the current legislation, introduce new sectors for emissions monitoring and reporting, include additional reporting requirements and introduce more uniform rules applicable throughout the EU.

The measure will cover the monitoring and reporting of emissions by national authorities. This regime differs from reporting as under the ETS Directive which covers reporting from companies to Member State authorities and is based on data collected by industries.

Member States and the Commission will have to implement low-carbon development strategies to contribute to the transparent and accurate monitoring of the progress made in meeting the GHG gas emission reduction commitments.  Member States will have to submit their low carbon strategies within a year after the entry into force of the new Regulation.

The Regulation would cover the emissions of six GHG: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous, sulphur hexafluoride, nitrogen trifluoride, hydrofluorocabons, from different sectors (energy, industrial processes, waste, agriculture etc.).

New areas

At the moment there are sectors where there is no, or insufficient data collected necessary to develop an effective policy and improve implementation. Therefore, the Commission intends to establish a basis for monitoring and reporting emissions from the following areas: 
CO2 emissions from maritime transport: such monitoring and reporting would allow for a more effective development of a policy on maritime emissions.  The Commission is currently developing legislation on maritime emissions and will present it if there is no agreement at international level by the end of 2011. 
Non-CO2 climate impacts from aviation: aviation has an impact on the global climate through releases of CO2 but also through other emissions. Therefore, an updated assessment of the non-CO2 impacts of aviation on the global climate should be performed regularly. The Commission will have to assess those impacts on the basis of the latest available emission data and scientific advancements every two years. 
Land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF): emissions and removals of GHG related to LULUCF count towards the EU’s emissions reduction target under the Kyoto Protocol, but they are not part of the 20% target for 2020 under the Climate and Energy package. The Commission is currently considering legislation to include LULUCF in the EU’s emissions reduction target. LULUCF emissions monitoring and reporting would be covered under the new Regulation. 
Adaptation: reporting on adaptation action will help identify the action taken so far by Member States and go towards the development of an EU-wide adaptation strategy. Reporting of information on adaptation could enable Member States to exchange best practices and evaluate their needs and level of preparedness to deal with climate change. Therefore, Member States will have to annually provide information on their implemented or planned actions to adapt to climate change, in particular, on national or regional adaptation strategies and on adaptation measures.

Reporting obligations

Besides the above mentioned areas, the new Regulation will require Member States to report on : (1) financial and technology support provided to developing countries; (2) policies and projections of anthropogenic GHG gas emissions by sources and removals by sinks; (3) historical GHG emissions and removals; (4) the auctioning revenues and project credits.

Financial support and technology transfer

The current monitoring and reporting system does not ensure compliance with new international commitments related to the provision of financial and technological support to developing countries. The EU made a commitment to provide developing countries with significant fast-start and long-term climate financing and technological support.

Therefore, Member States will have to annually report to the Commission on the financial support, assistance and technology transfer provided to developing countries. 

Projections and policies on GHG emissions

The experience gained by implementing the current Monitoring Mechanisms Decision demonstrated the need to improve the transparency, accuracy and completeness of information reported on policies, measures and projections.

Member States will be obligated to provide the Commission with information on national policies and measures, and on implementation of EU policies and measures that limit or reduce GHG emissions on an annual basis.

Member States will also have to annually report on their projected progress towards meeting their obligations, as well as the projected effects on emissions of their climate change policies. The Commission should also prepare and use GHG projection estimates.

The proposal includes provisions on better quality control and introduces streamlined reporting formats and guidance to increase the quality and completeness of the data provided and to simplify existing reporting requirements.

Auction revenues

The new Regulation aims to reinforce the transparency on the use of revenues generated from the auctioning of allowances under the ETS. The use of those revenues should provide evidence of the disbursed amounts, of whether revenues are allocated for disbursement by means of direct project investments, funds, or fiscal or financial support policies.

Inventories and registries

Under the new Regulation, Member States will have to establish national inventory systems which estimate anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of GHG gases. They will have to annually report to the Commission on their GHG emissions and information from their national registries which consist in an electronic database which includes data on the issue, transfer, acquisition, cancellation and retirement of emission units.

The Regulation would set up an EU-level review process, carried out by the Commission, of the GHG inventories submitted by Member States, ensuring control of compliance with climate change commitments.

The Commission will assess the progress made by the EU and Member States to meet their GHG commitments (annually) and the aviation's overall impact on the global climate including through non-CO2 emissions (biennially) and submit a Report by October of every year.

The proposal follows the ordinary legislative procedure (co-decision) and will be sent to the European Parliament and to the Council for adoption into law, probably after some amendments.