Experimental statistics

AEA from Iceland by months


Statistics Iceland now publishes data for emission of greenhouse gasses from the Icelandic economy with monthly time resolution. The values are that of the heating equivalences (CO2 equivalences), which weighs the warming effect of all emitted greenhouse gasses. The Icelandic economy is divided into 64 economic sectors according to the registered economic activity of the business, with three additional sectors reserved for the activities of Icelandic households (NACE*64). This division follows the classification of economic activities used in national accounts and business statistics. The emissions are accounted according to the residence principle, meaning that all emissions by Icelandic businesses and residents are accounted, regardless of where they occur, but emissions due to non-residents and non-resident businesses are excluded.


The values here are based on the Air Emission Account (AEA), which Statistics Iceland publishes annually to Eurostat. The official AEA account are based, in part, on the National Inventory Report, which the Environmental Agency of Iceland submits annually to the UN Framework of Climate Change, and on the Energy Account, which the Icelandic Energy Authority submits annually to the International Energy Authority (IEA). The last two accounts have, however, limitations in timeliness since they are based on extensive surveys from national operators. Statistics Iceland can, however, extend its time series beyond the official accounts by using financial statistics, import/export statistics, production statistics and other detailed datasets on financial and material flow that are used within Statistics Iceland. Most of the datasets have month-to-month timeliness which is here used to resolve emissions on the same timescale.


The purpose of extending the time series of the AEA to current date, and improve the time resolution of the account is to inform the discussion society about environmental issues at the same time as the economy deals with, and recovers from the COVID-19 crisis.

CO2 emissions from the economy in 2020 were 16.3% less than in 2019

Updated: 8 February 2021

The CO2 equivalent emissions from the Icelandic economy in 2020 were 5,505 kilotonnes according to preliminary figures, which is 16.3% less than it was in 2019 when they were 6,575 kilotonnes. The total emissions for 2019 were in turn 13.5% lower than the total for 2018 (7,602 kilotons), but 2018 is a notable high point in tourism activity in Iceland. One passenger airline ceased operations in 2019 and 2020 has seen significant reduction in tourism due to Covid-19.

Emissions in the fourth quarter of 2020 (1,153 kilotons) were 25.5% lower than the emissions from the same quarter in 2019 (1,547 kilotons). Emissions due to road transportation from household cars was 7% lower in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared with 2019, but emissions due to air transport operations were 36.3% lower. Emissions from industry were 6.8% higher. Values here account for emissions related to economic activity of the entire Icelandic economy, which is not the same scope as is used when calculating the national inventory report for the UN framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC).


Greenhouse gas emissions from the Icelandic Economy by months and quarters 210208 (xlsx)


The processing is based on broad survey of statistical modeling. The model is continually being revised, which means that all values are subject to change between publications. The construction of the statistical model should mean that values from the earliest years should not change as much as values from the most recent years.

Assumptions and foundation in the model

  1. It is assumed that the officially published values in the AEA for years where there exists values from the NIR and Energy Accounts exists are correct. The statistical model here is therefore forced to give the same annual emission values.
  2. The model is based on linear functions that calculate emissions from a NACE*64 sector based on the measured activity from the sector. The activity is quantified by one or more of:
    • Number of vehicles, such as automobiles, planes, boats or other fuel consuming equipment in the sector. These number are based February and August registry.
    • Mass of exported finished goods, such as metals, fish, waste for recycling etc.
    • Mass of imported or procured raw products for productions, such as metals, coals, quartz, fish landed by fleet and number of animals slaughtered.
    • Financial reporting of VAT from sales and annual tax reporting.
    • Employment reporting (number of employed and full-equivalence employment).
    • Number of visitors (tourist), number of takeoffs and landings, arrival/departure reports from the port authority.
  3. It is assumed that if a business reports no activity, there is subsequently no emission. An exception to this are emissions from waste management and from farming activities. In those exceptions, a baseline emission is estimated from known stocks, viz. volume of waste that has been earthed, or estimated weight/energy need of livestock.

  4. Known errors in the model

    Businesses report VAT, exports and production after the emissions of greenhouse gasses have occurred. Similarly imports occur prior to emissions. An attempt was made to correct for this type of shift in the data, especially when import or export happen irregularly. No time-shift correction was made where month-to-month flow of material was only slowly varying. This could, however, cause an error in the reported monthly values, but should have less effect when looking at quarterly or annual values.

    In some cases the registered financial activity of a business is different from the activity that causes the emission. Businesses are also known to change activities between quarters or change its identification number. Such changes cause uncertainties in the production summary, which affects emission values.

    Businesses can also invest in emission mitigating equipment, re-invest in low-emission fleet, or install electric boilers for oil consuming ones. Such changes are not automatically reported to Statistics Iceland, but these changes should be correctly reported in the NIR and Energy Accounts. The effect of green technology will therefore not be reflected in the data here until after they have appeared in the NIR report (lag time of up to two years).

    The NIR and the Energy Account can undergo a review, be corrected or new calculation method introduced. Changes in these primary resources has a significant effect on the numbers reported here.

    Use of these experimental statistics is free. Please quote the source.
    For further information please contact+354 528 1278. E-mail: Thorsteinn.Adalsteinsson@statice.is