EU emissions
Image credit: PxFuel

Carbon dioxide emissions in the European Union fell by nearly a quarter between 1990 and 2018, thanks in no small part to the power sector. This is according to official data submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The data forms part of a new analysis report by the European Environment Agency (EEA), which notes that EU Member States, together with the United Kingdom (UK), cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 2.1 % in 2018 compared to 2017.

Two-thirds of the 2018 emission reduction took place in the heat and power sector, where emissions from coal-burning decreased by almost 50 million tonnes and the use of renewables in electricity generation continued to grow.

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Several factors have contributed to the emission reductions in the EU:

  • EEA, including EU and country-specific policies,
  • Increase in the use of renewable energy,
  • Switching from coal to gas,
  • Improvements in energy efficiency,
  • Structural changes in European economies from industry towards services,
  • Temporary effects of economic recessions,
  • On average milder winters since 1990.

Total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU stood at 4 392 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in 2018, which is 23.2 % lower than in 1990. Over the same period, average emissions per EU citizen decreased from 12.2 tonnes CO2e to 8.9 tonnes CO2e.

The EU reduction without the UK was 20.7 %.

That translates to a drop from 12.2 tonnes per EU citizen in 1990, to 8.9 tonnes CO2e per EU citizen in 2018.

Emissions have decreased in almost all economic sectors, especially in energy supply, industry and the residential sector. In the transport sector, emissions have increased due to higher demand and despite climate policies and efforts to improve vehicles efficiency.

The EEA analysis shows that the carbon intensity of the EU economy has more than halved over the past three decades. For each Euro generated in the economy, the EU emitted 277 grams of CO2 in 2018, compared with 582 g CO2 per Euro in 1990.

“The EEA data show that cutting greenhouse gas emissions does not need to harm the economy. To the contrary, Europe’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic calls for ambitious and sustainable investments that can rebuild our economy and contribute to a fair transition towards a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, thus creating the competitive jobs for the future. Strong mitigation to avoid the worst effects of climate change remains an absolute priority,” said Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director.

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