How do emissions compare to economic growth?

The Netherlands economy grew by 18 percent between 2008 and 2022, while greenhouse gas emissions due to economic activity fell by 19 percent. This would suggest that economic growth does not have to result in increased greenhouse gas emissions. This phenomenon is often referred to as decoupling, a situation in which economic growth does not necessarily lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions.

Economic sectors with highest greenhouse gas emissions

In 2022, the sectors with the highest greenhouse gas emissions were aviation, energy companies, water-based transportation and the petroleum industry. Collectively, these sectors accounted for 34 percent of total corporate emissions, even though their contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) was only 2 percent. Between 2008 and 2022, these sectors saw an increase in added value even as their emissions declined.

Lower emissions intensity

An important measure when assessing how efficient an economy or sector is in terms of greenhouse gas emissions is known as emissions intensity. This is calculated by dividing total greenhouse gas emissions by the gross domestic product (GDP) of the economy or the value added by a specific industrial sector. Between 2008 and 2022, the emissions intensity of the Dutch economy as a whole was reduced by 25 percent.

In 2022, the petroleum industry (oil refineries) had the highest emissions intensity of any sector. Even so, the emissions intensity of this industry were reduced by 62 percent between 2008 and 2022. Energy companies improved their emissions intensity by 51 percent over the same period, thanks to a 28 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a 48 percent increase in added value. In the basic metal industry, emissions were reduced by 18 percent while added value increased by 22 percent, which meant a 33-percent improvement in emissions intensity.