< Methane - CH4 Hydrofluorocarbons - HFCs >

Associated topic: greenhouse effect

Emissions monitoring period: since 1990

Data source: CITEPA / SECTEN format - April 2017


Source of the pollutant

Although not traditionally included in the NOx group, nitrous oxide (N2O) is a nitrogen compound containing oxygen. Agriculture is the main source of N2O emissions, especially from nitrogenous inputs in the form of mineral fertilisers or animal manure spread on arable farmland.

A small share of N2O emissions is from road traffic, particularly from vehicles fitted with catalytic converters, and from some industrial processes such as the manufacture of adipic acid, glyoxilic acid and nitric acid.


Effect of the pollutant

N2O is used in health care as an anaesthetic. In large doses, it causes euphoria and problems with sight and hearing. It has a sedative effect and also causes vertigo, anxiety and digestive problems (nausea and vomiting). Finally, it can cause neurological problems (trembling, uncoordinated movements).

In environmental terms, nitrous oxide is a powerful greenhouse gas. It has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 298, i.e. 298 times the GWP of CO2, the reference greenhouse gas (GWP for CO2 = 1) (GWP values from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s fourth assessment report published in 2007). Among the greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol, nitrous oxide is the third largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4).


Classification of the sub-sectors with the highest emission levels* (excluding Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry or LULUCF) in 2015

Classification Sub-sectors Share of the sub-sector in total national emissions in mainland France
Crops including: 82% including:
Cultures with fertilizers 82%
2 Livestock 4.5%

*: one sector (out of six: energy transformation, manufacturing industry, residential/tertiary, agriculture/forestry, road and other transport) is broken down into sub-sectors.


Emissions and trends

  Including LULUCF Excluding LULUCF
Minimum observed: 141 kt in 2013 134 kt in 2013
Maximum observed: 238 kt in 1997 230 kt in 1997
Emissions in 2015: 145 kt 137 kt
Trends 2015/1990: -36.7% -37.7%
Trends 2015/maximum: -39.2% -40.2%
Trends 2015/minimum: +2.9% +2.9%

Measurement unit: kt (kilotonne)
N.B.: Emissions include those from combustion and from processes.

Source CITEPA / SECTEN format – April 2017

Graph N2O 17

Graph Legende avec UTCATF

Source CITEPA / SECTEN format – April 2017

Tab N2O 17

(*) Following UNFCCC definitions: emissions classified "except total" are not included, i.e. emissions from international waterway, maritime and air transport and emissions not from human sources.
(**) Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry
(e) preliminary estimate



All sectors of activity contribute to emissions in variable proportions. Whatever the year under consideration, the main N2O source is agriculture/forestry ("sylviculture" in French). N2O emissions from this sector are... (to read more, consult the SECTEN report online via your login and password)

Data source: CITEPA / SECTEN format - April 2017