Emissions of greenhouse gases in the Netherlands were 3% lower in 2019 than in 2018. According to the provisional figures of RIVM/Netherlands Pollutant Release and Transfer Register and Statistics Netherlands (CBS), emissions of these gases have now decreased by a total of 18% compared with 1990. The target is a reduction of 25% in the emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020. An additional decrease of 7% will be needed to achieve this.

Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and the fluorinated gases (also known as ‘F-gases’), are responsible for global warming. Emissions of greenhouse gases are expressed in megatonnes (a megatonne equals a billion kg) of CO2 equivalents. In 2019, emissions in the Netherlands amounted to 182.5 megatonnes of CO2 equivalents, or 5.7 megatonnes (3%), less than in 2018. Half of the reduction was due to lower emissions by the electricity sector. Incidentally, the effect of the measures against the spread of the novel coronavirus did not play a role in these figures for 2019.

Climate targets: lower emissions of CO2

The target is, by 2020, to have greenhouse gas emissions that are 25% lower than in 1990 (ruling in the Urgenda case). An additional reduction of 7% compared with 1990, or more than 16 megatonnes, will be needed to achieve this.

In accordance with the climate agreement, the Netherlands’ target is, by 2030, to have greenhouse gas emissions that are 49% lower than in 1990. A further reduction of 70 megatonnes of CO2 equivalents will be needed to achieve this in the next 11 years. 

The reduction of 39 megatonnes in recent years was not due to reduced emissions of CO2, but of the other greenhouse gases: methane, laughing gas and the F-gases. Emissions of these gases were halved between 1990 and 2019. Emissions of CO2 remained approximately the same in this period. In the coming 11 years, the reduction will primarily have to be realised by reducing CO2 emissions because it will be less easy to further reduce the emissions of the other greenhouse gases.

Lower emissions by the electricity sector four years in a row

The decrease in emissions of greenhouse gases in the last four years can mainly be attributed to the electricity sector. In 2019, the electricity sector emitted 42 megatonnes of CO2. In 2015, when new coal-fired power stations went into commission this figure was as high as 53 megatonnes. In the three subsequent years, emissions decreased due to the phased closure of old coal-fired power stations. In 2019, the low natural gas price and high CO2 price resulted in greater deployment of natural gas-fired power stations and less production of electricity by coal-fired power stations. The two changes jointly yielded a net reduction in emissions of 2.1 megatonnes of CO2.

Reports by the Netherlands Pollutant Release and Transfer Register

The Register is a partnership between various institutes under the auspices of RIVM. The Register makes an annual compilation of the emissions from all the relevant Dutch sources. In addition, it monitors whether the Netherlands complies with its international climate obligations (the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto protocol), and the guidelines in the field of large-scale air pollution (National Emissions Ceilings Directive (NECD) and the Göteborg protocol). To this end, the Register draws up two annual reports on behalf of the Netherlands: the National Inventory Report 2020 on the emission of greenhouse gases and the Informative Inventory Report 2020  on the emission of air pollutants. The Register also determines the sources of emissions in the Netherlands.