Over the past seven decades, CO2 emissions in the EU have varied greatly. Between 1965 and 1979, emission levels steadily rose from 3.3 billion metric tons to a peak of 4.7 billion metric tons. Since then, emissions have typically fallen, and by 2019 had dropped to levels last seen in 1966. Germany, the United Kingdom, and Italy have consistently been the EU countries with the highest CO2 emissions, and made up more than 30 percent of the Union’s total CO2 emissions in 2019. Although these countries produce vast quantities of GHG emissions per year, their per capita emissions are noticeably lower than in smaller nations such as Luxembourg, Estonia, and Ireland.
Whilst greenhouse gases drive the climate crisis, harmful air pollutants such as PM2.5 particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide are an increasing risk to human health. These pollutants are typically produced by fuel combustion from the transportation and manufacturing industries. People living in urban areas are most likely to be affected, with large shares of the EU population exposed to air pollution. There are a high number of deaths attributable to air pollution in the EU every year. In Poland, it is estimated that more than 20 percent of deaths were attributable to PM2.5 particle pollution in 2016.
As the world looks to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, reductions in emissions have been observed in recent years to meet targets. Between 1990 and 2018, greenhouse gas emissions from public electricity and heat production in the EU have dropped approximately 500 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent. However, transportation emissions have increased. 2020 is projected to experience the largest reduction in emissions since the 2009 financial crisis, due to the impact the COVID-19 virus.