An EU-wide 1.3% reduction in CO2 emissions between 2011 and 2012 marks the lowest recorded annual greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) since 1990: 19.2%. This brings the EU very close to the achievement of the 2020 emissions reduction target by 20%. Despite however the euphoria that this downward trend may generate, the main reductions are attributed to lower industrial activity and transport, primarily in crisis-stricken member states. Increased emissions since the previous year were recorded in the United Kingdom (3.2%), Germany (1.1%), Ireland (1.4%) and Malta (3.7%).
According to the report prepared by the European Environment Agency (EEA), which constitutes the submission of the EU-15 on GHG emissions under the Kyoto Protocol:
“- Decreasing CO2 emissions in road transportation (– 30 million tonnes or – 4 %) following a decreasing trend for the fifth consecutive year — were driven by reductions in both passenger and freight transportation. In 2012, emissions decreased in particular in the Member States that experienced persisting economic downturn or recession such as Italy, Spain and Greece: road freight transport declined by 16 % in Italy and Spain, and by 21 % in Greece.
- Reduced CO2 emissions in the category 'manufacturing industries excluding iron and steel industry' (– 11 million tonnes or – 3 %) were mainly driven by a decline in industrial production and a decline in cement production — especially in Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and Portugal.”
According to the EEA media release, “[t]he 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 % 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.” Given the low ambition of the 2030 climate and energy package currently being negotiated at the level of EU Heads of State, questions naturally arise regarding the future of emissions in post-crisis Europe.
Source: European Environment Agency.