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You are here: Home / News / Recession accelerates the decline in EU greenhouse gas emissions

Recession accelerates the decline in EU greenhouse gas emissions

According to the European Environment Agency's (EEA) new estimates, EU-27 and EU-15 greenhouse gas emissions both decreased by 6.9 % in 2009 compared to 2008. Based on these estimates, the EU-27’s 2009 emissions stand approximately 17.3 % below the 1990 level and therefore very close to the bloc’s target of cutting emissions 20 % by 2020. The EU-15 stands 12.9 % below the base-year level, exceeding its Kyoto commitment to an 8 % reduction for the first time.

The exceptionally deep recession of 2009 affected all economic sectors in the EU. Consumption of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) fell by 5.5 % in 2009 compared to the previous year. The strongest impact on greenhouse gas emissions came from the sharp 12.7 % drop in coal use. At the same time, renewable energy use (excluding biomass) increased significantly, rising by 8.3 %. In relative terms, the largest emission reductions occurred in industrial processes reflecting lower activity levels in the cement, chemical and iron and steel industries.

The decreased demand for energy linked to the economic recession was accompanied by cheaper natural gas and increasedrenewable energy use, which together contributed to lower emissions. However, the relatively colder winter of 2009 increased the residential sector’s heating needs, partly offsetting the total reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The 2009 verified emissions from the sectors covered by the EU Emission Trading Scheme (EU-ETS) decreased by 11.6 % compared to 2008. Sectors covered by the EU-ETS therefore achieved bigger emissions cuts than other sectors.

Looking ahead, it's apparent that, following the EU's deep recession in 2009, economic recovery may result in higher emissions in 2010 compared to the preceding year or at least less rapid emissions cuts.

Decline in EU GHG emissions

Source: EEA and European Topic Centre — Air and Climate Change

The EEA estimates for 2009 do not take into account the effects of carbon sinks and emission reductions achieved through the Kyoto Protocol’s flexible mechanisms. They are based on the publicly available verified EU-ETS emissions for 2009 and other national and European sources, available as of mid-July 2010. Several European countries have published their own estimates for 2009 emissions, which were also used to improve the EEA estimates for the EU-15 and the EU-27.

What next?

  • The 2009 estimates will be used to track progress towards EU targets in the annual EEA report on greenhouse gas emission trends and projections in Europe, due later this year.
  • The verified EU-ETS emissions for 2010 will be published in April 2011, giving an early indication of the overall trend for the 2010 emissions.
  • The official 2009 greenhouse gas emissions for the EU will be available in June 2011 in the 'EU Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990–2009 and Inventory Report 2011', compiled by the EEA and submitted to the UNFCCC by the European Commission.

Background on EU emission reduction commitments

Under the Kyoto Protocol, the EU-15 has a common commitment to reduce emissions on average by 8 % between 2008 and 2012 compared to emissions in the 'base year'. The base-year emissions for the EU-15 have been fixed to 4 265.5 million tonnes CO2‑equivalent.

Unlike the EU-15, the EU-27 does not have a common target under the Kyoto Protocol and therefore the EU-27 does not have an applicable base year against which to compare emission changes. Emission changes compared to 1990 are applicable to the EU-27 as it has made a unilateral commitment to achieve at least a 20 % reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared to 1990.

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