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Europe’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Lowest Since 1990

Andrea Izzotti / Shutterstock
Andrea Izzotti / Shutterstock

Greenhouse gas emissions by the EU’s 28 member states have continued to decrease in 2014, with a 4.1 per cent reduction in emissions to almost 25 per cent below 1990 levels.

The significant decrease in emissions came with an increase in Europe’s gross domestic product (GDP), demonstrating that economic growth is possible without rising carbon emissions.

By 2020, the European Union wants to have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 and up to 30 per cent below 1990 levels. A decade later the EU hopes to achieve a 40 per cent reduction compared to 1990.

More use of renewable technologies – mainly wind and solar – for electricity generation and better energy efficiency were among the factors that contributed to lower emissions in 2014, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Other major factors included milder winters and the economic recession.

The figures are part of  the European Union’s greenhouse gas report to the UN, an annual overview compiled by the EEA.

The report covers emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases from 1990 to two years before the current year.

Germany And UK Lead

Germany and the United Kingdom accounted for about 45 per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions reduction in the European Union in 2014 according to an EEA analysis.

The main reasons for the decrease in emissions in Germany are linked to a less electricity generation and an increase in the use of renewables, particularly from wind and solar.

Milder weather conditions which led to lower heat demand in commercial buildings and homes also played a role.

In the case of the UK, the strong reduction in emissions was primarily due to the extraordinary warm 2014 year, the EEA reports. The hot year reduced demand for heating. An increase in renewables for electricity generation also contributed.

Further Investments Needed

Reuters pointed out that while emissions decreased in most sectors, road transport accounted for the largest increase in CO2 pollution. Road transport made up about 20 per cent of all EU greenhouse gas emissions in 2014.

“It is positive that Europe has been able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions substantially since 1990,” said Hans Bruyninckx, the EEA’s executive director.

But he warned,”To accelerate the transition towards a low-carbon society, we need to further boost our investments in technology and innovation aimed at reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.”

The EEA warned that transmissions from the transport sector would have to be reduced significantly for the EU to meet its own target of cutting emissions across sectors.

Here are six of the report’s key findings:

  1. The overall reduction of 24.4 per cent in greenhouse gas emissions – 23 per cent including international aviation – was accompanied by a 47 per cent increase in gross domestic product (GDP).
  2. Greenhouse gas emissions decreased in the majority of sectors between 1990 and 2014. Emission reductions were largest for manufacturing industries and construction (-372 million tonnes), electricity and heat production (-346 million tonnes), and residential combustion (-140 million tonnes).
  3. Not all sectors were able to reduce emissions. Road transport, responsible for the largest increase in CO2 emissions, grew by 124 million tonnes from 1990-2014, and 7 million tonnes from 2013-14.
  4. Emissions from international transport (aviation and shipping) also increased substantially between 1990 and 2014 (93 million tonnes).
  5. Emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which is a group of greenhouse gases used in the production of cooling devices such as air conditioning systems and refrigerators, also increased (99 million tonnes).
  6. EU greenhouse gas emissions were cut by 185 million tonnes between 2013 and 2014 (4.1 per cent). The reduction in emissions was mainly due to lower heat demand by households due to the very warm winter in Europe. The increase in non-combustible renewables, particularly from wind and solar power also contributed to lower emissions in 2014.   

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