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EU Greenhouse Emissions Hit Record Low

EUgasEU greenhouse gas emissions fell 1.3 percent in 2012 to their lowest recorded levels, putting member states within reach of their collective 2020 emissions reduction target, according to data from the European Environment Agency.

The 2012 reduction puts EU emissions at 19.2 percent below 1990 levels, according to final EU greenhouse gas emissions for 2012. The body is targeting a 20 percent reduction in emissions over 1990 levels by 2020.

Absolute EU emissions have decreased by 1,082 metric tons in the EU since 1990, which is more than the combined 2012 emissions of Italy and the United Kingdom. The emission reduction from 2008 to 2012 in the first 15 EU member states was in absolute terms greater than Spain’s total emissions in 2012.

The 2012 reductions were largely due to reductions in transport and industry and a growing proportion of energy from renewable sources.

Italy alone accounted for 45 percent of the total EU net reduction in emissions in 2012, 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.

The EEA technical analysis of emission trends shows that changes in GDP, for example growth or recession, can explain up to one-third of the change in total greenhouse gas emissions since 1990. During periods experiencing recession (including in the 2008-2012 period), changes in GDP can explain less than 50 percent of observed emission reductions for the EU as a whole. Other factors and policies have played at least as important a role in reducing emissions, including the sustained and strong growth in renewable energy and improvements in energy efficiency, the EEA says.

The news is in stark contrast to equivalent data from the US. US Energy Information Administration figures released in May show that CO2 emissions in the US are on the rise, after a five-year decline.

CO2 emissions from fossil fuel consumption had been declining since their record high in 2007 and were 12.52 percent lower in 2012 than they had been five years earlier. However, they increased by 2.39 percent in 2013 compared to 2012. Moreover, for the first two months of 2014, they increased by 7.45 percent compared to the same period in 2013.

On Monday, the EPA proposed a rule to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent by 2030 below 2005 levels.

The proposal, which is the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate plan, would also cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent by 2030.

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One thought on “EU Greenhouse Emissions Hit Record Low

  1. To give a fuller picture of the emissions impact of the EU, the consumption-based emissions need to be considered, primarily the emissions embodied in imports.

    Since 1990 significant volume of manufacturing activity has probably moved outside of the core EU (e.g. to China) so it is likely that the overall emissions impact of the core EU is understated.

    This is a significant limitation of the production-based carbon accounting approach. A more accurate measure would be production emissions, plus emissions associated with imports, less emissions associated with exports. Of course this is not straightforward.

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