Greenhouse gas emissions 8 percent down in 2020

© Hollandse Hoogte / ANP
In 2020, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions showed a year-on-year decline of 8 percent to 166 megatonnes CO<sub>2</sub> equivalent. This is 24.5 percent lower than in 1990 and comes close to the Urgenda target, i.e. a reduction in GHG emissions of at least 25 percent (1990-2020). There is only a narrow gap, and it is within the uncertainty margin of GHG emissions. This is evident from an initial estimate of GHG emissions in 2020, conducted by CBS and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM)/Emission Register in accordance with the IPCC guidelines.

Greenhouse gas emissions
 Manufacturing (megatonnes of CO2 equivalent)Electricity (megatonnes of CO2 equivalent)Transport (megatonnes of CO2 equivalent)Agriculture (megatonnes of CO2 equivalent)Built environment (megatonnes of CO2 equivalent)
Source: CBS, RIVM/Emission Registration
*provisional figures

Sharp drop in emissions by electricity sector

The most substantial decline in GHG emissions last year was recorded in the electricity sector, namely 21 percent relative to 2019. This is related to the reduced consumption of coal. Multiple factors account for this reduction. Firstly, the coal-fired Hemweg power station in Amsterdam was closed at the end of 2019, while the Riverstone power station on the Maasvlakte was stationary for most of the year 2020 due to malfunctioning. Secondly, the coal-fired power plants were facing higher coal and carbon prices, giving them a competitive disadvantage compared with natural gas-fired power stations; the latter benefited from lower gas prices while offering cleaner electricity production. Thirdly, demand for electricity was increasingly being met by renewable sources such as wind and solar. Finally, overall demand for electricity fell both in the Netherlands and in neighbouring countries due to the coronavirus crisis.

GHG emissions by source sector
   CO2 (megatonnes of CO2 equivalent)Other greenhouse gases (megatonnes of CO2 equivalent)
Buildings and construction201922.50.5
Buildings and construction2020*21.60.5

Lower emissions from transportation, mainly due to lockdown

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Dutch government urged people to stay home and work from home as much as possible. As a result, there was less reason to drive a car. Road haulage, on the other hand, was not significantly affected by the coronavirus crisis. By and large, motor fuel sales did fall substantially. Relative to 2019, emissions from transportation dropped by 11 percent.


Emission levels in other source sectors almost unchanged

GHG emissions fell slightly in agriculture and in buildings and construction. Winter was mild in 2020 and more or less comparable to the winter in 2019. Emissions from buildings and construction fell slightly as a result. In the agricultural sector, a major component of CO2 emissions is the combustion of natural gas in cogeneration plants used in greenhouse horticulture for the generation of heat, electricity and for CO2 enrichment to promote crop growth. Natural gas consumption at these installations was roughly equal to the level in 2019. However, the bulk of emissions by agriculture comprises other greenhouse gases including methane and nitrous oxide. Here as well, not much changed in the emission levels compared to 2019.

In the manufacturing sector, emissions were at more or less the same level as in 2019. The oil refineries had lower output than in 2019 as a result of lower demand for oil products both at home and abroad. Other CO2-intensive industries within manufacturing showed less decline or maintained similar emission levels. One of the reasons why these industries did not see a year-on-year decline in emissions was that, despite lower output, the CO2-intensive petrochemical industry already achieved relatively lower emissions in 2019 because of several major maintenance projects that year.

Initial yearly estimate earlier thanks to new quarterly estimates

This initial yearly estimate of greenhouse gas emissions is the result of quarterly estimates that were developed in 2020 in accordance with the IPCC guidelines. The quarterly estimate has been developed in order to gain more rapid insight into emission trends and is based on data which become available on a quarterly basis. The figures will be subject to minor revisions based on newer statistical source information that will be available at a later stage. Eventually, the reduction relative to 1990 will range between 23 and 26 percent.

In early September this year, the annual emission figures for 2020 will be published. These are compiled under the responsibility of the Dutch Emission Registration and are used in international reporting. These figures will have a greater degree of accuracy, especially at sector level. The definitive figures over 2020 will be compiled in February 2022.

Q4 2020: Sharp drop in CO2 emissions

In Q4 2020, CO2 emissions according to IPCC guidelines fell by 9 percent relative to the same quarter of the previous year. This marked a continuation of the declines in Q1 and Q2, after virtually no change was recorded in Q3. A large part of the decline in Q4 can be atttibuted to lower coal consumption in the electricity sector and less transport movement on account of the coronavirus crisis. In the manufacturing sector, CO2 emissions were at approximately the same level as in Q4 2019.

Dutch GHG emissions according to IPCC guidelines
JaarKwartaalCO2 (megatonnes of CO2 equivalent)Other greenhouse gases (megatonnes of CO2 equivalent)

CO2 emissions from all economic activities in the Netherlands - including sea and air transport as well as biomass - were even down by 10 percent year-on-year. As a result, the reduction in emissions was much more significant than the decline in gross domestic product (GDP), which amounted to 2.9 percent. The impact of the coronavirus crisis on CO2 emissions from all activities in the Netherlands can be seen mainly in the transportation sector. In Q4, this sector emitted 25 percent less CO2 than one year previously. CO2 emissions in aviation were even 45 percent lower; the number of air passengers last year was notably lower than in 2019. Household emissions were 9 percent down on the same quarter of 2019, mainly as a result of a sharp decrease in car use.

CO2 emissions and economic development, Q4 2020
CategoriesCO2 emissions (year-on-year % change of volume)Value added (year-on-year % change of volume)
Economy (weather-adjusted)-9
Mining and quarrying, manufacturing
and construction
Other services-8.3-2.1
Energy and water companies,
waste management