Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The "Greenhouse Gas Emissions" fact sheet assesses the annual level of emissions and sequestration of these gases of human origin, in all sectors of the domestic economy, when compared to 1990. The level of anthropogenic emissions is also assessed against commitments undertaken by Portugal within the framework of the shared efforts to be undertaken by the Member States, in order to meet the commitments of the European Union (EU) to reduce the GHG emissions by 2020.

The 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in 2014, points out that the scientific evidence relating to the influence of human activity on the climate system is stronger than ever and that the global warming of the climate system is unequivocal. It is, therefore, crucial to monitor and verify the level of emissions and sequestration of greenhouse gases (GHG) of human origin in all sectors of the economy according to international guidelines.

The national GHG emissions inventory allows monitoring and verification of national compliance with the targets undertaken by countries, and is, therefore, a key element of the policy framework to tackle climate change. All emissions and sequestration of human origin are counted and include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3). Also included are indirect GHGs such as carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs).

The National System for the Inventory of Emissions by Sources and Removals by Sinks of Air Pollutants (SNIERPA) was created to ensure the elaboration of the national inventory. In 2015, it was restructured and updated. Every year the National Inventory is subject to revision by teams of international experts, as part of both the European Union (EU) and of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) review processes.

As part of its strategy to reduce GHG emissions and in order to ensure compliance with international commitments, the EU has created the European Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS). It is the first intra-EU market instrument for the regulation of GHG emissions. The EU-ETS has been in force since January 1st, 2005, having already taken place two compliance periods, 2005-2007 and 2008-2012 (which coincided with the first compliance period of the Kyoto Protocol - KP). Phase 3, 2013-2020, which coincides with the second compliance period of the KP, is currently underway.

The EU-ETS includes installations from a wide range of sectors, from energy to industrial, including refineries, metals, cement, chemicals, ceramics, glass, pulp, paper, agroforestry or agro-food. Since 2010 aviation is also included.

At the European level, under the climate-energy package for 2020, sectors covered by the ETS, including aviation, must reduce their emissions by 21% in 2020 compared to 2005 levels. On the other hand, at European level, non-ETS sectors are expected to reduce emissions by 10% in comparison with 2005 levels. The Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry - LULUCF, is not considered for this purpose.

The Effort Sharing Decision (Decision No 406/2009/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009) covers sectors outside the ETS and divides the overall European target into individual targets by Member State. In this context, Portugal should limit, between 2013 and 2020, the increase of GHG emissions from non-ETS sectors to 1% in relation to 2005. In order to ensure compliance with the established targets, the European Commission has also set the annual limits the Member States must comply with (in the form of Annual Emissions Allocations - AEAs) from 2013 to 2020.

In 2015 the Council of Ministers Resolution No 56/2015, of July 30, established the main national policy instruments in the areas of mitigation and adaptation to climate change - the National Program for Climate Change (PNAC 2020/2030) and the National Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change (ENAAC 2020).

The PNAC 2020/2030 focuses on mitigation and encompasses all sectors of the economy. It identifies emission reduction objectives aligned with the cost-effective potential of emission reduction in order to ensure Portugal remains on a low carbon trajectory. The sectoral targets set by the PNAC 2020/2030 do not yet include the contribution of LULUCF as it is still under examination, taking into account the rules agreed upon internationally and at EU level for the sector. Given that the sector is expected to remain a net sink in the 2030 horizon, which means that the balance between carbon sequestration and emissions is positive, the national reduction targets for 2020 and 2030 will have to be adjusted later to reflect the contribution of the sector.

According to PNAC 2020/2030, climate change mitigation policies should continue to focus on promoting the transition to a competitive, low-carbon economy in the medium to long-term.

The Paris agreement, adopted in 2015, set long-term goals for restraining the global average temperature rise to a maximum of 2ºC, with the commitment of the international community to continue its efforts to ensure that this increase does not exceed 1.5ºC, values that science defines as a maximum to ensure life on the planet as we know it, without excessively disruptive changes.

It has thus established a comprehensive framework of understanding, conducive to the development of public policies at regional, national or subnational levels that promote the conditions for the emergence of low carbon societies and economies, based on standards of resource efficiency and collaborative actions that promote an effective integration of climate change challenges - both in terms of reducing emissions and of improving resilience to the effects of climate change - across all aspects of our societies.

The IPCC presented the Special Report on 1.5 ° C in October 2018. This report assesses the impacts of global warming of 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels and corresponding greenhouse gas emissions in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, of sustainable development and of efforts to eradicate poverty. The conclusions of the Special Report indicate that strengthening short-term climate action until 2030 will be crucial to avoid irreversible damage to climate change and that the further we postpone necessary and unavoidable measures, the greater the cost of deferred action and the more demanding the post-2030 reductions will have to be.

Portugal assumed, in 2016, the objective of carbon neutrality by the end of the first half of this century, thus outlining a clear vision regarding the decarbonisation of the national economy.

Work will be completed in 2019 on the preparation of the Roadmap for Carbon Neutrality 2050 (RNC 2050), which began in 2017. The goal of this work is to identify and analyse the implications associated with cost-effective trajectories for the pursuit of the national objective of neutrality of GHG emissions established for 2050 and to identify the main associated decarbonisation trajectories.

In November 2016, The European Commission presented a package of legislative and non-legislative proposals entitled "Clean Energy for All Europeans" consisting of 8 legislative proposals and 3 non-legislative texts.

Decree-Laws on the energy performance of buildings (Directive 2018/844), energy from renewable sources (Directive (EU) 2018/2001), energy efficiency (Directive (EU) 2018/2002) and the Union for Energy and Climate Action (Regulation (EU) 2018/1999), have already been adopted.

Among these, the proposal for a Regulation on the Governance of the Energy and Climate Action Union, the purpose of which is to ensure political coherence between the climate and energy areas in achieving the targets by 2030 and beyond, is of particular relevance in terms of climate policy. This Regulation provides for the development by the Member States, of an Integrated National Plan for Energy and Climate (PNEC), with a long-term perspective, 2030-2050, covering five dimensions, of which the decarbonisation dimension stands out. Portugal submitted a draft version of PNEC 2030 in December 2018, and is currently developing the final version that will have to be submitted to the European Commission by the end of 2019.

This fact sheet concerns mainland Portugal and the Autonomous Regions of Madeira and the Azores and shall be updated on an annual basis.

Objectives and targets: 
  • The Paris Agreement, which has been in force since November 4, 2016 and ratified by Portugal on September 30, 2016, sets the objective of limiting the global average temperature increase to well below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1,5°C, recognizing that this will significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;
  • The EU Energy and Climate Package for 2020 establishes a reduction of at least 20% of GHG emissions compared to 1990, at European level. This goal will be achieved collectively by the EU and its Member States;
  • Under the second period of the Kyoto Protocol (2013-2020), the EU and its Member States committed themselves to reducing EU emissions by 20% compared to 1990 levels. This goal will be achieved collectively by the EU;
  • The EU Energy and Climate Package for 2030 sets a European target of reducing GHG emissions by at least 40% compared to 1990. It also sets a binding renewable energy target of at least 32% and an energy efficiency target of at least 32.5% - with a possible upward revision in 2023.These targets will be achieved collectively by the EU;
  • As part of the Effort Sharing Decision, Portugal committed to limit between 2013 and 2020, the increase in GHG emissions from non-ETS sectors to 1% in relation to 2005. For this purpose, annual emission allocations are established for each Member State, representing in practice, annual emission limitation or reduction targets for the period 2013 to 2020 and the respective adjustments for non-ETS emissions for Portugal in that period (table below).
Annual Emission Allocations for Portugal established by the Effort Sharing Decision
YEAR 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
AEA (Mt CO2e) 49.3 49.6 49.9 50.1 47.9 48.7 48.7 49.1


  • For the period 2021-2030, the established targets determine    that sectors of the economy not covered by the EU-ETS should reduce emissions by 30% until 2030 when compared to 2005, as a contribution to the overall target. The Effort Sharing Decision and Land Use, Land Use Change and Forest (LULUCF) regulations were adopted in May 2018 and establish a 17% reduction target for Portugal in relation to 2005 for non-ETS sectors, allowing the application of a 1.1% flexibility margin of the LULUCF sector within the scope of the goal of Sharing Efforts for Portugal.
  • At the national level, the PNAC 2020/2030 establishes the following targets:
  • To ensure a sustainable path of GHG emissions reduction of -18% to -23% in 2020 (68-72 Mt CO2e) and -30% to -40% (52,7-61, 5 CO2e) in 2030, compared to 2005 levels, guaranteeing compliance with national mitigation commitments and putting Portugal in line with European and international objectives;
  • To ensure reduction targets in the non-ETS sectors translated into the following sectoral targets:
PNAC sectoral targets for non-ETS sectors compared to 2005
NON-ETS Sector  2020 2030
Services -65% -69%
Household -14% -15%
Transport -14% -26%
Agriculture -8% -11%
Waste* -14% -26%

* Waste waters included 

  • In addition, as mentioned above, Portugal is committed to ensuring the neutrality of its emissions by the end of the first half of the century.
Progress analysis:

The evolution of GHG emissions reflects, to a large extent, the evolution of the Portuguese economy, which was characterised by a strong growth associated with the increase in energy demand and mobility in the 90's, and the stagnation and recession between 2011 and 2013, and the recovery since then.
However, emission stabilisation/reduction trends started before the crisis as a result of technological improvements in pollution control systems and energy efficiency; of the introduction of less polluting fuels, with emphasis on natural gas from the late 1990s onwards; of the significant growth of energy produced from renewable sources (with special emphasis on wind); of the implementation of waste management measures, aimed at the increase of selective deposition; of reuse and recycling; and of the energy recovery of biogas generated in the waste management systems.

Last update: 
Tuesday, 18 June, 2019