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The European Parliament’s carbon footprint: towards carbon neutrality

by Georgios AMANATIDIS and Srdan RANDIC

Srdan RANDIC, Unité de gestion écologique et d'audit (EMAS), PE
Srdan RANDIC, Unité de gestion écologique et d’audit (EMAS), PE
Georgios AMANATIDIS, Policy Department for Economic, Scientific and Quality of Life Policies, EP
Georgios AMANATIDIS, Policy Department for Economic, Scientific and Quality of Life Policies, EP

The original full study[i] analyses the European Parliament’s (EP) carbon footprint in the context of the recent EP resolutions, in which it declared a climate emergency in Europe and requested the development of a strategy to become itself carbon-neutral by 2030. The analysis takes into account the various sources contributing to the EP’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including those related to its function in three different sites and the traveling of its Members and staff. Moreover, study offers suggestions for short, medium and long-term actions to drastically decrease the EP carbon footprint towards carbon neutrality in 2030.


Taking into account the overwhelming scientific evidence, the numerous occurring extreme events, the mobilisation of civil society and the insufficient action by major emitting countries to combat climate change, the EP declared on 28 November 2019 climate emergency in Europe and urged all EU countries to commit to net-zero GHG emissions by 2050. Moreover, it recognised its institutional responsibility to reduce its carbon footprint and to propose the adoption of measures to reduce its own GHG emissions. The European Commission (EC) also stated, in its European Green Deal communication of 11 December 2019, that it is keen to reduce its environmental impact as an institution by presenting a comprehensive action plan in 2020 to become climate neutral by 2030. At the European Council on 12 December 2019, the Member States (MSs) adopted a 2050 carbon neutrality target for the EU, with the exception of Poland that although supporting the 2050 goal was unable to commit to implement this objective.


On 2 December 2019, the ENVI Committee requested the Policy Department for Economic, Scientific and Quality of Life Policies to prepare a study on the EP carbon footprint and defined the aims of this study, which were to provide:

  • available data on climate emissions related to the EP activities.
  • a description of the current environmental management system (EMS) in relation to the EP a comparison with other EU institutions.
  • an analysis of the different sources that contribute to the carbon footprint of the EP including the emissions related to the functioning of two seats: and
  • conclusions on the capacity of the EP to reduce its emissions and the related reduction trajectory in view of carbon neutrality.

Since this request, the EP decision and resolution of 14 May 2020 on Discharge 2018 of the EU general budget set a concrete target year for carbon neutrality. It instructs the EP Bureau to amend its current CO2 reduction plan for reaching carbon neutrality by 2030. Thus, this study discusses the capacity of the EP to reduce its emissions and suggests short, medium and long-term emissions reduction actions to drastically decrease the EP carbon footprint towards carbon neutrality by 2030.

Concluding remarks

The EP established its EMS, in accordance with EMAS, in 2005 and reviewed periodically its environmental performance through core indicators with increasing level of ambition each time. The GHG emission calculation of the EP includes all direct, semi-direct and indirect emissions for which activity data can be collected and therefore the reported EP carbon footprint pertains the broadest possible scope of emissions. The EP succeeded to reduce its GHG emissions since 2006, when a full year of measurements and the internal audit were put in place for the first time. Overall, the EP carbon footprint expressed in t CO2 eq. decreased by 15% between 2006 and 2018, while if expressed per person, the decrease is even 37.7% for the same time period. The current carbon footprint target of the EP is to achieve 40% decrease in t CO2 eq. per person by 2024, a target which will be achieved sooner. Following a 100% offsetting of its irreducible emissions through financial support for projects which reduce GHG emissions in developing countries, the EP has already claimed carbon neutrality since 2016. However, additional significant effort will be needed for the EP to achieve carbon neutrality domestically (without offsetting of its emissions).

Four categories of EP’s carbon footprint namely transport of persons (67%), energy consumed (14%), fixed assets (12%), and purchase of supplies and services (6%), together account for 99% of the total carbon footprint in 2018 (110 570 t CO2 eq.). Among these four, by far the most significant and critical is the transport of persons, which is divided in three main sub-categories; transport of staff (15%), transport of MEPs (19%) and subsidised visitors (33%). It is clear that the EP subsidised visitors are the main source of the EP GHG emissions and 1/3 of the total EP carbon footprint (33% or 35 896 t CO2 eq.). Emissions from visitor groups, which are not subsidised by Parliament, are not included in its carbon footprint scope. In case non-subsidised visitors had been included in the EP carbon footprint scope, another 44 323 t CO2 eq would have been added.

In order to address the question of “per site” emissions in 2018, a separate analysis was conducted to determine which emissions could be calculated for individual places of work directly from available data. For those categories of emissions for which per site breakdown of data was not available, a partitioning formula was developed to determine what share of total emissions could be attributed to the three places of the EP work (Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg). The detailed breakdown of GHG emissions per site shows that, 84 196 t CO2 eq. are being attributed to activities in or linked to Brussels, 9 836 t CO2 eq. attributed to Luxembourg, and 16 538 t CO2 eq. attributed to Strasbourg, out of the Parliament’s total of 110 570 t CO2 eq. for that year. This means that 76,2% of Parliament’s emission is attributable to activities linked to Brussels, 8,9% are linked to Luxembourg, and 14,9% to Strasbourg.

Although the EU Institutions and bodies are exchanging environmental best practices to reduce their carbon footprint via inter-institutional environmental management groups, like the GIME, more effort is still needed to harmonise the way of calculating and reporting their GHG emissions. Moreover, not all of them include their indirect emissions, the use of green public procurement (GPP) is still not obligatory, while there is no common approach for offsetting GHG emissions. Already in 2014, an ECA special report recommended that EU Institutions and bodies need to harmonise the methods and metrics to calculate their carbon footprint. Today, it is still very difficult to directly compare their carbon footprints.

As the international efforts to address climate change are shifting in 2020 from the Kyoto Protocol to the Paris Agreement and the Kyoto implementation mechanisms (e.g. offsets) have shown their limitations, the Parties to the Paris Agreement have not been able yet to agree on the provisions for market-based mechanisms. The difficulty comes from the fact that all countries need to define their emission reduction targets and the offset mechanisms have risks associated with double counting. Inevitably, more effective climate policies need to be implemented domestically in order to reduce global GHG emissions. The European Green Deal aims to achieve its ambitious climate targets without compensation (offsetting) of its GHG emissions through international credits, as it is the case for the current 40% GHG emission reduction target for 2030. Equally, the EP in its recent resolution prior to COP25 reiterated its position on achieving domestically the EU emission reduction targets for 2030 and 2050. In case the EP Bureau decides to become climate neutral by 2030, similarly to the Commission, this study offers suggestions for short, medium and long-term actions to drastically decrease the EP carbon footprint towards carbon neutrality.

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