Urgenda reduction target for GHG emissions achieved in 2020

A field full of solar panels is being installed on the site of the GDF-Suez coal-fired power plant
© ANP / Flip Franssen
In 2020, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the Netherlands were 25.5 percent below the level of 1990. This means that the so-called Urgenda target - a reduction in GHG emissions of at least 25 percent by 2020 - was achieved. Between 2015 and 2020, emissions by coal-fired power stations were reduced by 80 percent. In the 2020 coronavirus year, road transport emissions were 15 percent lower than in 2019. In addition, 2020 was a relatively warm year and therefore less natural gas was needed for heating than in 2019. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this together with the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) on the basis of definitive figures from the Netherlands Pollutant Release and Transfer Register.

GHG emissions by sector
 Electricity (megatonnes of CO2 equivalents)Mobility (megatonnes of CO2 equivalents)Agriculture (megatonnes of CO2 equivalents)Manufacturing (megatonnes of CO2 equivalents)Built environment (megatonnes of CO2 equivalents)Urgenda target (megatonnes of CO2 equivalents)
Urgenda 2020165.4
Source: CBS, RIVM/Emissions register

Emissions down by one quarter relative to 1990

As of 2015, the Urgenda target applies to the Netherlands: a reduction in GHG emissions of at least 25 percent compared to 1990 by the year 2020. The target was thus achieved in 2020 with a 25.5-percent reduction. Emissions by the electricity sector fell by 39 percent relative to 2015, partly due to the closure of several coal-fired power plants. Emissions by coal plants dropped by 80 percent over this five-year period.

GHG emissions substantially lower in 2020

In 2020, annual GHG emissions stood at 164 megatonnes of CO2 equivalents. This is 56 megatonnes less than in 1990. A reduction of 16 megatonnes out of the 56 was achieved in 2020. The electricity sector emitted nearly 9 megatonnes less than one year previously by using less coal.

Emissions in the mobility sector (traffic and transport) fell by 4.5 megatonnes relative to 2019. This is related to 15 percent lower emissions from road traffic, as a result of the government’s advice to stay at home as much as possible and preferably work from home. Less natural gas combustion in the relatively warm year of 2020 caused lower GHG emissions from dwellings and offices (by approximately 1.5 megatonnes of CO2 equivalents).

Greenhouse gas emissions according to different frameworks, 2020 (megatonnes of CO2 equivalents)+ Biomass combustion emissions 19 + Air transport emissions 8 + Sea transport emissions 5 + Correction for residents / territory 2 + Emissions related to imports 192 – Emissions related to exports 163 Footprint, due to Dutch consumption 74 Emissions trading system (ETS) 90 Non-ETS 138 CO₂ IPCC; emissions on Dutch territory 164 172 CO₂ Emissions Dutch economy; SEEA 199 227+ Biomass combustion emissions 19+ Air transport emissions 8+ Sea transport emissions 5+ Correction for residents / territory 2+ Emissions related to imports 192 Emissions related to exports 163Footprint, due to Dutch consumption74Emissions trading system (ETS)90Non-ETS138CO₂IPCC; emissions on Dutch territory164172CO₂Emissions Dutch economy; SEEA199227

Emissions by the Dutch economy 21 percent higher than according to IPCC

CBS calculates emissions not only according to IPCC guidelines (on which the Urgenda target is based) but also according to other frameworks, including GHG emissions by the Dutch economy in accordance with the Environmental accounts and the GHG footprint.

In 2020, GHG emissions related to all Dutch economic activities amounted to 199 megatonnes of CO2 equivalents, 21 percent higher than emissions according to the IPCC framework (164 megatonnes). This is partly because, unlike in the IPCC figures, biomass combustion (19 megatonnes of CO2 equivalents) and Dutch air and sea transport (8 and 5 megatonnes of CO2 equivalents, respectively) are fully counted towards GHG emissions.

Dutch GHG footprint nearly 40 percent larger than according to IPCC

Emissions are even higher when calculated as the GHG footprint, based on the consumption of goods and services by residents of the Netherlands. This is because many emissions are generated during the production of goods and services abroad which are intended for domestic consumption. According to this calculation, the Netherlands emits 14 percent more GHG than under the definition of emissions by the Dutch economy, and 38 percent more than emissions under IPCC guidelines.