The EU's greenhouse gas emissions fell by 2.5% last year, according to early estimates published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) on 7 September.
The decrease came despite rising coal consumption and gross domestic product. A mild winter, leading to lower demand for heat, reduced natural gas consumption and greater renewable energy production all contributed to the drop.
The data will provide some comfort for the EU, which saw a long trend in emissions reduction appear to come to an end in 2010 (ENDS Report, October 2011). But the eurozone’s economic crisis remains the dominant factor, despite advances in renewable generation, with carbon prices in the EU emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) now too low to have a significant mitigation impact.
Earlier emissions data from the energy and climate department (DECC) in March revealed a much sharper 7.4% drop over the same period in the UK, reversing a 3.8% rise in 2010 due to severe weather and nuclear power outages (ENDS Report, March 2012).
The latest EU-wide figures indicate the bloc’s emissions were 17.5% below 1990 levels in 2011. This is very close to achieving its 20% emissions reduction target for 2020.
The figures exclude carbon sinks, international aviation and shipping, and reductions obtained through the Kyoto Protocol's flexible mechanisms.
In the EU-15, which has to collectively cut its emissions by 8% in 2008-12, emissions dropped by 3.5%. This means they were 14.1% below the 1990 baseline.
Emissions outside the EU ETS fell by an estimated 3.1%, with the largest reductions coming from housing and the tertiary sectors.
EU ETS data for 2011 has also been revised downwards. According to the latest EEA update, emissions from installations covered by the scheme fell by 1.8% compared with the 2.4% drop initially reported by the commission.
The EEA says it will publish a full analysis based on final figures in October.
Please note this article has been republished with the kind permission of the ENDS Report.