Member states slash EU emissions by 24%

Ahead of the European Union (EU) referendum date later this week, new figures have revealed that total EU greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have plummeted to record lows, with the UK accounting for a significant proportion of the overall reductions.

The European Environment Agency’s (EEA) comprehensive 819-page report highlights that EU-28 + Iceland GHG emissions in 2014 were 24.4 % below 1990 levels, with emissions falling 4.1 % between 2013 and 2014. Figures also show a progressive decoupling of gross domestic product (GDP) and carbon emissions compared to 1990, with an increase in GDP of about 47 % alongside a decrease in emissions of more than 24 % over the period.

The publication clarifies that the overall EU reductions were mainly due to a growing share of renewables, less carbon intensive fuels in the energy mix and improvements in energy efficiency. The latest statistics offer encouraging signs that EU member states remain on course to reduce GHG emissions by at least 40% by 2030.

EEA executive director Hans Bruyninckx said: “It is positive that Europe has been able to reduce GHG emissions substantially since 1990. It is an important step towards reaching our 2030 and 2050 climate targets. To accelerate the transition towards a low-carbon society, we need to further boost our investments in technology and innovation aimed at reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.”

League rankings of the 5 highest and lowest country GHG reductions in the EU-28 + Iceland:

GHG emissions in million tonnes CO2-equivalent

Member State (Top 5)  1990     2014     Change 1990–2014 (%)

Lithuania                       47.1      19.0       – 59.6

Latvia                           26.2      11.3       – 56.9

Romania                       251.9    109.8     – 56.4

Estonia                         40.0      21.1       – 47.3

Slovakia                       74.7      40.6       – 45.6

(Bottom 5)

Malta                            2.0       3.0          49.1

Cyprus                          5.7       8.4          47.9

Iceland (non-EU)           3.6        4.6          26.5

Spain                           285.9     328.9      15.0

Portugal                       60.7       64.6        6.5

UK makes headway

Specifically, the report highlighted that major member states including the UK played an important role in lowering the EU’s carbon emissions. Total EU level emissions reportedly decreased by 185 million tonnes between 2013 and 2014, with Germany and the UK accounting for about 45% of the total reduction.

The report found that the main reason for favourable trends in the UK were primarily the result of liberalising energy markets and the subsequent fuel switch from oil and coal to gas in electricity production.

The statistics provide a degree of optimism for potential future reductions, considering that the UK will enshrine in law a long-term goal of reducing its carbon emissions to zero, as called for in last year’s historic Paris climate deal. However, it’s worth noting that Germany (21 %) and the United Kingdom (12%) are the two largest emitters in Europe. In total, the UK emitted 523.7m tonnes in GHG emissions, equating to a 34% reduction from a 1990 baseline.

‘Wake-up call’

Meanwhile, the data illustrates that GHG emissions from the transport sector have grown for the first time since 2007 while the majority of other sectors of the economy have decreased. The EEA’s report shows that transport has now become the single biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in Europe, with GHG emissions from all transport modes increasing by 0.6% to 1,153 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents.

Last month, Global brands such as IKEA, Nestlé and Philips urged the President of the European Commission (EC) to propose post-2020 CO2 reductions for heavy-goods vehicles in Europe. The following EEA report comes ahead of a proposed EC strategy to decarbonise transport in Europe on 20 July.

Commenting on today’s report, Transport & Environment (T&E) executive director Jos Dings said: “These numbers serve as a wake-up call to those who thought that Europe was turning the corner on its transport emissions. Transport is now without question Europe’s biggest climate problem.

“The EC has no choice but to help Member States and come with an ambitious ‘efficiency and electrification’ strategy for transport with new car and truck CO2 standards by 2025.”

George Ogleby

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie