Official data, published today by the European Environment Agency (EEA), confirm that the economic recovery in 2021 increased the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions but their level remained lower than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, the EU has reduced its emissions by 30% since 1990. 

The EEA has published the ‘Annual EU greenhouse gas inventory 1990-2021 and inventory report 2023’, which is the EU’s official submission of greenhouse gas emission data to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  

The emission inventory shows that EU greenhouse gas emissions increased considerably, by 6.2%, from 2020 to 2021 but remained at lower level than before the pandemic. According to the EEA analysis, the main reasons for the emission increase from 2020 to 2021 were the overall economic recovery after the 2020 lockdowns, increased coal use in the power sector and higher transport demand

Considering the entire 1990-2021 period, there is still a clear, long-term trend of decreasing emissions in the EU. The total net greenhouse gas emissions of the 27 EU Member States have decreased by about 30% from 1990 to 2021 while the EU economy has grown by 61%, the EEA report notes.

Main contributing factors to the long-term decrease include the growing use of renewables, burning less coal, improving energy efficiency, structural changes in the EU economy and milder winters. Despite the increase of 2021, the use of coal in public electricity and heat production has been halved in the EU since 1990. 

Most economic sectors in the EU have reduced their emissions from 1990 to 2021, with biggest cuts in public electricity and heat production. Emissions have increased in transport and cooling sectors, and net removals have decreased in forest land due to increased harvesting and aging and slower growth of forests. 

Later this year, the EEA will publish its annual ‘Trends and projections’ analysis on the EU progress towards its climate and energy goals, and the approximated greenhouse gas emission data for 2022. The EU has committed to an at least 55% reduction in net emissions by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050. 

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