Cohesion policy
reducing greenhouse gasses


Greenhouse gases (GHG) are naturally present in the Earth’s atmosphere, but human activity, in particular the combustion of fossil fuels, has increased their concentration exponentially since the industrial revolution.  These gases trap the sun’s heat in the atmosphere and prevent it from being released into space, ultimately being the first cause of global warming.
Climate change poses a serious threat to the environment and to human wellbeing; for this reason, investments in themes linked to a low carbon economy were prioritised under Cohesion policy's European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund (CF) for 2014-2020 budget period, in line with the European and International commitments to reduce emissions. The outcome of many of these investments is measured by the common indicator "CO34 - Estimated annual decrease of GHG". In this data story you can explore the targets set and the progress reported annually under this common indicator.
For more information about regional policy investment in climate action, you can consult the following data stories: Tracking climate related investments; Tracking Cohesion policy air quality investments; EU support to clean urban transport; Cohesion policy supporting the energy union 

The GHG emission reduction targets and progress in achieving them are monitored at EU level ...

The chart below shows the overall evolution over time of the various values provided  for the reduction of GHG emission under the ERDF and Cohesion fund. It shows 
  • The target values set in the programmes (planning documents); 
  • The decided values (from selected projects / project pipeline);
  • Implemented values from supported projects as they achieve GHG emission reductions.  
The national and programme level contribution to these values can be found using the interactive drill down / filters at the top left and right of the chart.
To see the national contribution click on the bars for the latest year;
To see the national / fund progression use the filter menu on the top right of the chart.
The indicator targets are influenced by many factors, among which the relevance of Cohesion Policy in each Member State, and are not necessarily representative of a country's investment in GHG reduction. 
The aggregate picture shows some important corrections in the target value over time. Those corrections arose from two main factors: 
  • Correction of encoding mistakes, or of the methodology used to calculate targets (several programmes initially set target values too high);  
  • Target adjustments linked to changing financial allocations. 

How is the GHG reduction indicator defined?

The GHG reduction indicator was designed (in 2013-2014) to be calculated for investments directly aiming to increase renewable energy production and to decrease energy consumption.
  • In case of renewable energy production, the reduction in greenhouse gases is estimated on the basis of the amount of primary energy produced by supported facilities in a given year. Renewable energy is mostly GHG neutral and a replacement for non-renewable energy production with higher carbon footprint. Examples of interventions in this category are solar, wind and hydro power plants. 
  • In case of interventions meant to decrease energy consumption through energy saving measures, the estimate GHG reduction is based on the amount of energy saved in a given year through the supported operations. Saved energy is supposed to be replacing non-renewable energy production. Examples of interventions in this category are energy efficiency renovations, clean urban transport infrastructure, and cogeneration of heat and power. 
In both cases, the GHG impact of non-renewable energy is estimated through the country's total GHG emission per unit of non-renewable energy production.
For other investments with possible GHG impact, the use of the GHG indicator was optional. Where introduced, these indicators were calculated through methodologies developed by the progammes.
The GHG reduction indicator measures the estimated annual decrease of GHG emissions from the supported projects once each project is completed. Those annual values from each project are then cumulated. It is not a measure of the total (cumulative) decrease throughout the period nor does it measure total net emission across all investment activities.  For reasons of administrative efficiency, measurement was focused on the areas identified above; target setting and measurement of GHG reduction at project level was largely dependent on national or regional methodologies.  

Looking at the specific savings targeted by fund and by investment priorities

In the 2014-2020 programmes, targets for the GHG indicator were set predominantly for the following "investment priorities" (IPs)
  • Renewable energy (RE) = ERDF IP 4a; CF IP 4i; 
  • Energy efficiency (EE) + renewable energy in enterprises = ERDF IP 4b; CF IP 4ii; 
  • Energy efficiency in public buildings and housing = ERDF IP 4c; CF IP 4iii;
  • Co-generation = ERDF IP 4g; CF IP 4vi; 
  • Low carbon urban strategies = ERDF IP 4e; CF IP 4v;
NB: The GHG indicator was not used in the following circumstances:  
  • Research and innovation actions that may related to GHG reductions;
  • Rare uses for Low carbon transport actions such as rail investments (the programmes focus on transport output indicators);
  • In water services and circular economy related measures; 
  • Programmes also use programme specific indicators, which cannot be aggregated.

Targets and progress by "investment priority" linked to ERDF investment

Targets and progress by "investment priority" linked to Cohesion Fund investment

More information

The thematic guidance for the cohesion policy programmes 2014-2020 is linked below:
Find further information on the main low carbon investments in these data stories 
Find more #ESIFOpenData stories here. 


We are REGIO's sustainable growth team. Contact us at: 
(European Commission, Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy, Smart and Sustainable Growth Unit
Author: Caterina SCARPA
Data: November 2020