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.

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 three compliance periods, 2005-2007, 2008-2012 (which overlapped with the first compliance period of the Kyoto Protocol - KP) and 2013-2020 (which overlapped with the first compliance period of the KP). On January 1st, 2021, the fourth compliance period began, which will run until December 30th 2030.

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, were obliged to 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 and the Regulation (EU) 2018/842, for 2013-2020 and 2021-2030, respectively) covers sectors outside the ETS and divides the overall European target into individual targets by Member State. In this context, it was established that Portugal should limit, between 2013 and 2020, the increase of GHG emissions from non-ETS sectors to 1%, compared to 2005. For the period 2021 and 2030, these emissions should be reduced by 17%, compared to 2005 figures (these values are currently under revision). 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).

In 2015 the Council of Ministers Resolution No 56/2015, 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 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.

To support this commitment, a Roadmap for Carbon Neutrality 2050 (RNC 2050) was developed, approved by Council of Ministers Resolution No. 107/2019 of 1 July, which also constitutes the Long Term Strategy for Portugal and which aims to: explore the feasibility of trajectories that lead to carbon neutrality; identify the main vectors of decarbonisation and estimate the potential for reducing emissions in the various sectors of the national economy, towards a carbon neutral society.

The European Commission adopted the “Clean Energy for all Europeans” legislative package, with the aim of promoting the energy transition in the 2021-2030 decade, with a view to complying with the Paris Agreement and, at the same time, achieving economic growth and job creation.

Of this package, the Regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action stands out, due to its relevance in terms of climate policy, whose objective is to ensure political coherence between the areas of climate and energy in achieving the goals until 2030 and beyond. This Regulation provides for the development by Member States of a National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (PNEC), to cover the period 2021-2030, taking into account a long-term perspective, contributing to the five dimensions of the Energy Union, of which highlights the decarbonisation dimension.

In December 2019, Portugal submitted to the European Commission its National Plan for Energy and Climate 2030 (PNEC 2030).

The National Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030 (PNEC 2030), approved through the Resolution of the Council of Ministers No. 53/2020, was developed in conjunction with the objectives of the Roadmap for Carbon Neutrality 2050 (RNC2050) and constitutes the main instrument of national energy and climate policy for the next decade, towards a carbon neutral future.

The PNEC 2030 sets ambitious but achievable targets for the 2030 horizon of GHG emission reduction (45% to 55% compared to 2005), incorporation of renewable energies (47%), energy efficiency (35%) and interconnections (15%) and sets forth the policies and measures for an effective application of the guidelines contained in the RNC2050. Additionally, the PNEC 2030 establishes sectoral targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

It is, therefore, a pioneering and innovative instrument that translates a convergent and articulated approach to make real the vision established for Portugal: “to promote the decarbonisation of the economy and the energy transition, aiming at carbon neutrality in 2050, as an opportunity for the country, based in a democratic and fair model of territorial cohesion that enhances the generation of wealth and the efficient use of resources”.

PNEC2030 thus revokes PNAC 2020/2030, with effect from January 1, 2021.

In June 2021, the first European Climate Law was approved, published through EU Regulation 2021/1119, which establishes the objective of a climate-neutral EU by 2050.

This means achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions for EU countries as a whole, mainly through reducing emissions, investing in green technologies and protecting the natural environment; it also includes an ambitious 2030 climate target of at least 55% reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990.

In July 2021, the European Commission presented the “fit for 55” package, a legislative implementation package comprising a set of proposals to amend the existing sectoral legislation. The aim is to adapt the legislation to the revised greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target for 2030. This package includes, among others, the revision of the European Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS) of the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR), the Energy Directives (taxation of energy products and electricity, renewable energy and energy efficiency) and the Regulation on Land Use, Land Use Change and Forests (LULUCF).

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%.
  • The European Climate Law approved by the European Parliament on June 30th 2021 increases the EU's target of reducing emissions for 2030 from 40% to at least 55%, compared to 1990 values, with each country's contribution to this reduction, as well as the aforementioned renewable energy and energy efficiency targets being now under review.
  • This target will be collectively achieved 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, for 2020/2030, the following targets were established:
  • For 2020, PNAC established a path of GHG emissions reduction in order to achieve the target reduction of -18% to -23% in 2020 (68-72 Mt CO2e), compared to 2005, ensuring compliance with national mitigation commitments and placing Portugal in line with European and international goals;
  • For 2030, PNEC 2030 establishes as a national goal, to reduce GHG emissions between -45% and -55%, compared to 2005, thus outlining a trajectory aligned with the objective of climate neutrality until 2050;
  • o In both instruments (PNAC and PNEC 2030) sectoral targets for GHG reduction were established for the non-ETS sectors, compared to 2005 values:
Sectoral targets for non-ETS sectors compared to 2005
NON-ETS Sector  2020 2030
Services -65% -70%
Household -14% -35%
Transport -14% -40%
Agriculture -8% -11%
Waste* -14% -30%

* Waste waters included 


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, 16 November, 2021