EN01 Energy related greenhouse gas emissions
Assessment made on 01 Nov 2008
ClassificationEnergy (Primary theme)
DPSIR: Driving force
- ENER 001
Policy issue: Is the use and production of energy having a decreasing impact on the environment?
Energy production and consumption are the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-27, accounting for 80 % of the total. Energy-related greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-27 decreased by 4.4 % between 1990 and 2005. This was much less than the 20.0 % reduction observed for non-energy related emissions, which resulted in total GHG emissions being 7.9 % below 1990 levels. Between 2003 and 2005 energy-related greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-27 decreased by 0.8 %, while they increased by 4.2 % between 1999 and 2003 mainly due to increases in thermal power production (see EN27, EN16).
The decrease between 2003 and 2005 is partly due to higher electricity generation from hydropower in Northern European countries and lower thermal power production. Warmer winters were also partly responsible for lower emissions from households and services in Germany and the Netherlands. Examining energy-related carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions separately shows marked differences in their shares trends:
- Carbon dioxide is by far the most significant energy-related greenhouse gas, with a share of 96.4 %. In the EU-27, energy related emissions of carbon dioxide decreased by 3.3 % over the period 1990 to 2005; most EU-15 Member States saw a rise but this was offset by a decrease in emissions from most new Member States.
- Methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions are only a small fraction of total energy-related emissions (2.1 % and 1.5 %, respectively). N2O emissions increased by 31.9 %, while methane emissions decreased by 44.4 %. More than 80 % of methane emissions arise from fugitive emissions from the extraction, production and distribution of fossil fuels.
The reductions in energy-related emissions since 1990 were helped by structural changes in the economies of the new Member States in central and eastern Europe in the early 1990s, combined with reductions within Germany due to economic restructuring in its new Länder and in the United Kingdom due to a switch from coal to gas (see EN27 and EN26). In addition, a range of specific policies and measures contributed to emission reductions in a number of EU Member States. However, the reductions achieved by the UK, Germany and Sweden were partly offset by increased emissions in other Member States, like Spain, Austria, Ireland, Greece and Portugal. Energy sub-sectors showing the largest decreases in greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-27 between 1990 and 2005 were energy use by industry (-16.6 %), and energy use by services (-8.7 %).
Energy-related CO2 emissions from industry (manufacturing and construction) fell by 16.6 % between 1990 and 2005. This was predominantly due to reduced emissions from this sector in the new Member States (-36.0 %) and in Germany (-33.5 %). CO2 emissions from energy production (including fugitive emissions) decreased by 7.5 % between 1990 and 2005, with some new Member States, the United Kingdom and Germany showing large decreases in absolute terms in their emissions, largely due to fuel switching and the introduction of more energy-efficient technologies, such as combined cycle gas turbines. CO2 emissions from transport in the EU-27 increased by almost 24.7 % between 1990 and 2005 as a result of a continuous increase in road transport demand (in particular freight), triggered by growing trade volumes and the sector's almost total reliance on fossil fuels. CO2 emissions from transport increased in all EU-27 Member States, except Estonia, Lithuania and Bulgaria. An increase higher than 80 % is reported by Spain, Austria, Portugal, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ireland and Luxembourg. The continued growth in the transport sector presents a problem for most Member States in terms of meeting their targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Energy-related greenhouse gas emissions from households and services sectors decreased between 1990 and 2005 by 7.5 % and 8.7 %, respectively. Emissions are closely linked to outdoor temperature. Important factors influencing the emissions from this source are fuel switching from oil and coal to natural gas in space heating in the new German Länder following reunification, increased energy efficiency in buildings, and increased use of district heating particularly in the Northern countries. Greenhouse gas emissions of the services sector increased by 5.5 % between 2000 and 2003, but then decreased by 0.8 % until 2005.
In the EU-15, overall energy related and non-energy related emissions decreased by 1.5 % between 1990 and 2005, whereas energy-related emissions increased by 2.9 % and non-energy related emissions decreased by 16.1 %. As analysed and reported in the EEA report 'Greenhouse gas emission trends and projections 2007' (EEA, 2007b), on the basis of their 2010 projections, three Member States (Sweden, United Kingdom and Germany) were on track to achieve their burden-sharing targets in 2010 using only existing domestic policies and measures. Nine more countries (Netherlands, Portugal, France, Finland, Belgium, Ireland, Austria, Greece, Luxembourg) anticipate to meet or exceed their commitment targets by implementing additional measures and/or using Kyoto mechanisms and/or using carbon sinks. Three EU-15 Member States (Italy, Denmark, Spain) project that they will miss their target despite the implementation of additional measures or the use of Kyoto mechanisms or carbon sinks.
Greenhouse gas emissions have declined substantially more in almost all new Member States. In 2005, energy-related emissions were more than 26.8 % below 1990 emissions, mainly due to the introduction of market economies and the consequent restructuring or closure of heavily polluting and energy-intensive industries. Transport represents the most rapidly growing source of emissions in these countries. All new Member States were on track to meet their individual Kyoto targets of 8% (Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia) and 6% (Hungary and Poland) on the basis of their emissions in 2005. Only Slovenia proposes to make use of additional policies, carbon sinks (CO2 removals from land-use change and forestry) and Kyoto Mechanisms to achieve its Kyoto target; all other new Member States project that existing policies and measures will be sufficient. Cyprus and Malta do not have Kyoto targets.
National projections5 show that in the EU-15, existing measures could bring greenhouse gases emissions to 4 % below base-year levels by 2010. Including the reductions that Member States forecast they will achieve through additional measures, emissions in 2010 are projected to be 7.9 % below base-year emissions in the EU-15. With the additional consideration of Kyoto Mechanisms and carbon sinks, the EU-15 emissions are projected to be 11.4 % below base-year emissions, thus (over)achieving the Kyoto target.
Nine of the ten new Member States with a Kyoto target are projected to meet and indeed overachieve their targets by the use of existing domestic policies and measures. Slovenia projects that it will meet its Kyoto target with additional policies and measures and the use of carbon sinks and Kyoto Mechanisms. However, in most new Member States, emissions fell markedly between 1990 and 2005 but are projected to increase between 2005 and 2010 (EEA, 2007b).
Those existing policies and measures that are currently projected to help most in reducing energy-related emissions in the EU-27 include:
- promotion of renewable energy (including electricity from renewable sources, see EN29 and EN30);
- the EU emissions trading scheme, which has created a market for carbon dioxide allowances and aims to ensure that emissions reductions can be made where it is most economically efficient;
- promotion of combined heat and power (CHP, see EN20);
- improvements in the energy performance of buildings;
- promotion of alternative fuels in transport (in particular biofuels);
- reduction of the average carbon dioxide emissions of new passenger cars;
- taxation of energy products and electricity.
Nevertheless, in a long-term perspective, baseline projections for the EU-27 beyond 2010 indicate that energy-related CO2 emissions may start rising again unless further action is taken. According to PRIMES projections6, by 2030, energy-related CO2 emissions could reach a level almost 6% above 1990 levels, with a 41% increase in emissions from transport. Projections for the EU-15 are similar to those for the EU-25 as a whole. In the new EU-12, CO2 emissions from transport are projected to more than double between 1990 and 2030, while significant reductions are predicted in the industry, household and energy supply sectors.
The projections for overall greenhouse gas emissions are more stable over time (Fig. 1), as the increase in CO2 emissions is projected to be partially negated by large decreases in methane and N2O emissions. However, it should be noted that fluorinated gas emissions are projected to triple between 1990 and 2030. Latest Member State projections of EU-27 greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 are 6% below 1990 levels (EEA, 2007b).
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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