Greenhouse Gas Emissions

From Open Risk Manual


Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG Emissions) denotes the anthropogenic (human generated) production of green house gases. Widely considered to be responsible for Climate Change.

Greenhouse gases are gases that trap heat from the sun in our planet’s atmosphere, keeping it warm. Since the industrial era began, human activities have led to the release of dangerous levels of greenhouse gases, causing global warming and climate change.[1]

Broadly speaking, the main greenhouse gases released by human activities are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases used for cooling and refrigeration.

Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas resulting from human activities, particularly from burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and changing the way land is used. Our reliance on fossil fuels has led to a 50 percent increase in the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over the last 200 years.

Methane is another important greenhouse gas that is responsible for 25 percent of global warming. Methane is released during the extraction and transport of coal, gas, and oil, and by waste landfills and agricultural practices.

To prevent catastrophic climate change, the world’s governments must work together to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions now and in the coming decades and keep global warming below the dangerous threshold of 1.5°C.

Kyoto Protocol Gases

The seven Greenhouse Gases mandated under the Kyoto Protocol agreed at COP3 and to be included in national inventories under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC):


  • As defined in[2]
  • Nitrogen trifluoride was not one of the six gases originally mandated under the Kyoto Protocol, but was added for the second compliance period (starting 2012)

Reduction Targets

EU Context

The EU has set targets for reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions progressively up to 2050, with specific milestones in 2020 and 2030.

  • The EU is currently on track to meet the targets for 2020.
  • The European Council agreed on climate and energy targets for 2030 in 2014. The renewables and energy efficiency targets were then revised upwards as part of the legislation adopted in 2018.

2020 Targets

2030 Targets

The key targets for 2030 are:

  • at least 40% cut in greenhouse gas emissions (based on 1990 levels);
  • at least 32% share for renewable energy;
  • at least 32.5% improvement in energy efficiency.

2050 Targets

In November 2018, the Commission presented its strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate-neutral economy by 2050. Reaching Net Zero GHG emissions by 2050 (climate neutrality) is considered an appropriate EU contribution to limiting the global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, in line with the Paris Agreement objectives. The EU aims to adopt and submit an ambitious strategy by early 2020 to the UNFCCC as requested under the Paris Agreement.

In 2013, the European Commission adopted an EU strategy on adaptation to climate change. It aimed to enhance the preparedness and capacity of all governance levels to respond to the impacts of climate change and make Europe more climate resilient.

In 2015, the EU signed onto a new global goal on adaptation as part of the Paris Agreement, and works towards a wider and more interconnected policy agenda defined by the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

See Also

Futher Resources


  1. The Climate Dictionary, UNDP, 2023
  2. PCAF (2020). The Global GHG Accounting and Reporting Standard for the Financial Industry. First edition.