Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Netherlands

Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in the Netherlands. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Netherlands
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in the Netherlands. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Netherlands
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in the Netherlands. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?

What percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions does the Netherlands produce?

The Netherlands produced 0.34% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 (the latest date with complete emissions data). This amounted to 160m metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or MtCO₂e. These emissions represented an increase from 2020 by 2.7%.

In the period from 1990 to 2021 their emissions have decreased by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -0.83% and the Netherlands has contributed 0.53% of global greenhouse emissions.

Countrythe Netherlands
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in USD$1.02tr
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2021160m
Change in Emissions since 20202.7%
Percentage of Total Emissions (2021)0.34%
Rank – Emitters in 202141
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions since 19906.36bn
Compound Annual Growth – Emissions since 1990-0.83%
Percentage of Total Emissions (1990-2021)0.53%
GDP Per Capita (USD)$58.1k
Emissions Per Capita9.1

In 2021, the Netherlands was the world’s 41st largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. The largest emitters in the same period were China, the United States, India, Russia and Brazil.

When looking at emissions over time the Netherlands is the 32nd largest emitter since 1990.

Emissions per capita in The Netherlands – average household carbon footprint

The population of the Netherlands is 17.5m. On a per capita basis, they produce 9.1 tonnes of CO2e per person, placing them 33rd out of 191 on emissions produced per capita. The biggest per capita emitters are Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Turkmenistan.

What is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the Netherlands?


84.2% of emissions in the Netherlands came from Carbon Dioxide (CO2), 9.4% came from Methane (CH4), and 5.2% came from Nitrous Oxide (N2O).


The sector that produced the most emissions in 2021 was the energy industry, producing 136m of GHG emissions, constituting 85.3% of total.

The second and third largest emitting sectors were bunker fuels and agriculture, producing 26.9% and 11.4% of total GHG in the Netherlands.


The industry that produced the most energy related emissions was the electricity/heat industry, producing 56.4m of GHG emissions, constituting 35.3% of total emissions.

The second and third largest emitting sectors were transportation and building, emitting 25.9m and 24.5m tonnes of GHG each.

Land Use Change and Forestry

Land use change and forestry (LUCF), such as deforestation and conversion of natural ecosystems to agricultural or urban areas, can have a significant impact on carbon emissions.

  • Trees and other vegetation absorb and store carbon through the process of photosynthesis, and when they are cut down or burned, that stored carbon is released into the atmosphere.
  • Deforestation and other forms of land use change can also reduce the ability of ecosystems to absorb and store carbon in the future. Additionally, the conversion of land for agriculture or urban development can lead to the release of carbon stored in the soil.
  • On the other hand, sustainable forestry practices, such as reforestation and afforestation, can help to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in trees and other vegetation.

In the case of the Netherlands, LUCF had a negative impact on the Netherlands’s emissions, increasing their carbon footprint by 6.64m tonnes.

After accounting for land use change and forestry, the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the Netherlands in 2021 was 166m metric tonnes.

How vulnerable is the Netherlands to the impact of climate change?

The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) Index

The ND-GAIN Index measures countries’ vulnerability to global challenges, including climate change, and their readiness to improve resilience.

The Netherlands scores 66.6 on the ND-Gain Index and is classified in the ‘low vulnerability and high readiness’ category of climate change preparedness.

The index aims to assist businesses, governments, and communities in prioritising investments for a more efficient response to global shifts.

It is measured by combining two main components:

  1. Vulnerability: This evaluates a country’s vulnerability to environmental risks and its ability to adapt. It considers health, food and water availability, infrastructure, and ecosystem services. A higher score indicates greater vulnerability to environmental challenges.
  2. Readiness: This measures how well a country can leverage investments to mitigate climate change. It considers economic stability, governance, technology, and infrastructure. A higher score means a country is better prepared to implement resilience strategies.

This ranking helps identify areas where resources and adaptation strategies can be most effectively directed to mitigate risks and enhance resilience.

By combining these dimensions, the index provides a comprehensive approach to measuring countries’ ability to cope with the impacts of climate change.

Low vulnerability and high readiness in the Netherlands

In terms of readiness to adapt to climate change, The Netherlands ranks in the top 10% group. Globally, the average readiness score is 0.424, with the Netherlands posting a score of 0.687.

They show the greatest strength in governance aspects, while their performance in economic aspects requires improvement.

  • Governance readiness refers to the political, legal, and regulatory aspects influencing a country’s adaptation to climate change, including stability, corruption control, and law enforcement.
  • Economic readiness refers to the business environment and its capacity to adapt to climate change, emphasizing the importance of a supportive regulatory framework for adaptation initiatives.

Regarding vulnerability to climate change, The Netherlands falls into the top 25% category. Compared to the global average vulnerability score of 0.431, the Netherlands has a score of 0.355.

Their resilience is most notable in food areas, yet they face significant challenges in infrastructure.

  • Food vulnerability refers to the sensitivity of agricultural yields and import dependencies, as well the capacity to adapt through agricultural resources. Innovations in agriculture can mitigate food insecurity risks due to climate change.
  • Infrastructure vulnerability refers to the weaknesses in the coastal protection, transportation, and energy systems, which are critical for building resilience against climate change. Coastal protection safeguards land and ports from rising sea levels and storms. Reliable transportation infrastructure is essential for corporate value chains and can be disrupted by extreme weather. Energy infrastructure resilience ensures a continuous supply of energy during natural disasters, maintaining economic stability.

The formula to calculate the ND-GAIN Index is

GAIN Index=(Readiness Indicators−Vulnerability Indicators+1)×50GAIN Index=(Readiness Indicators−Vulnerability Indicators+1)×50

In this formula:

  • The Readiness Indicators are measured on a scale of 0 to 1, where a higher score means that the readiness is better.
  • The Vulnerability Indicators are also measured on a scale of 0 to 1, but a lower score indicates better vulnerability in this case. 
  • The difference between the Readiness and Vulnerability scores is calculated and then incremented by 1. 
  • Finally, the result is multiplied by 50 to convert the GAIN Index score to a range of 0-100, where a higher score means the situation is better.

Is there a correlation between greenhouse gas emissions and economic growth in the Netherlands?

In 2021, the gross domestic product (GDP) in the Netherlands grew by 13.2% from the previous year, with the economy moving from $910bn to $1.03tr. During the same period, carbon emissions increased by 2.7%. Over the ten-year period from 2011 to 2021, GDP grew 13.7%, while emissions decreased by -15.4%.

To put this into context, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of GDP in the Netherlands over the past ten years was 1.3%, and the CAGR for greenhouse gas emissions was -1.7%.


World Resources Institute, 2022. Climate Watch Historical GHG Emissions. [online] Washington, DC. Available at:

Global Carbon Project, 2023. Supplemental data of Global Carbon Budget 2023 (Version 1.1) [Data set]. Global Carbon Project. Available at:

UNFCCC, 2023. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Data. [online] Available at:

Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative, 2023. ND-GAIN Country Index. [online] Available at:

FAO, 2022. Land-Use Change and Forestry or Agriculture indicators from FAOSTAT Emissions Database. [online] Available at:

OECD/IEA, 2022. CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion. [online] Available at:

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