EU reports lowest greenhouse gas emissions on record

The European Union's is within reach of its 20% reduction in greenhouse gasses by 2020, with emissions across its 28 member states falling by a further 1.3% in 2012.

According to a report sent from the European Environment Agency (EEA) to the United Nations, emissions had fallen to 19.2% below 1990 levels, with the most recent reductions put down to reductions in transport and industry and a growing proportion of energy from renewable sources.

The EEA’s executive director Hans Bruyninckx said: “The EU has demonstrated that there is no conflict between a growing economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Policies have been at the heart of this success. We need to go even further, but this will depend on countries implementing policies which already map a path towards a low carbon, energy secure society.”

Per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the EU have decreased by almost a quarter since 1990, from 12 to nine tonnes. In 2012, Italy accounted for 45% of the total EU net reduction in emissions, which was again largely due to lower emissions from transport and industry. The second largest reduction, in Poland, was mainly due to a substantial decrease in solid fuel consumption.

In contrast to their overall decreasing emission trend since 1990, the United Kingdom and Germany increased emissions in 2012 because of increased use of solid fuels.

Recession impact

The first 15 EU Member States are also joint signatories to the Kyoto Protocol, with a collective target of 8 % average reduction over the period 2008-2012. This group of countries have reduced emission by an average of 11.8 % during 2008-2012 compared to base year without counting ‘sinks’ or credits from Kyoto Protocol flexible mechanisms.

The emission reduction from 2008 to 2012 in the EU15 was in absolute terms greater than Spain’s total emissions in 2012.

The EEA’s technical analysis of emission trends shows that changes in GDP, such as growth or recession, can explain up to one third of the change in total greenhouse gas emissions since 1990. During the recent recession, changes in GDP can explain less than 50 % of observed emission reductions for the EU as a whole.

The EU’s emissions reduction seems to have continued in 2013, according to the latest emissions data from EU Emissions Trading System and early estimates based on energy statistics from Eurostat.
Official estimates for total EU greenhouse gas emissions for 2013 are expected this autumn.

Luke Nicholls

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