Renewables and mild winter push EU carbon emissions down
by Daniel Mason
More widespread use of renewable energy sources, a mild winter and reduced consumption of natural gas contributed to a 2.5 per cent decline in greenhouse gas emissions from the European Union last year.
The reduction came despite an increase in the use of coal and a growing economy in 2011, the European Environment Agency said today. It offset an increase in emissions of 2.4 per cent the previous year. The preliminary figures mean emissions from the EU now stand 17.5 per cent below 1990 levels, closing in on the bloc's own target of a 20 per cent reduction by the end of this decade.
In the EU15 – which excludes the 12 mostly eastern European member states that joined the union in 2004 and 2007 – emissions fell even further, by 3.5 per cent, between 2010 and 2011. Greenhouse gas emissions in those countries, which have a common commitment to make an 8 per cent cut under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, are now 14.1 per cent lower than in the base year of 1990.
Across the EU, households and the service sector contributed most to the decline, while emissions from transport fell for a fourth consecutive year, the EEA said. Sectors that come under the umbrella of the EU's carbon trading scheme saw emissions decline 1.8 per cent while there was a drop of 3.1 per cent in those sectors not covered.
"The main reasons for the decrease in emissions were a milder winter in parts of the EU, which resulted in lower heating demand from households, and reduced natural gas consumption," the Denmark-based agency said in a statement. "Renewable energy consumption also continued to increase in 2011, which contributed to the observed decrease in emissions."
The figures, which do not include the effect of international aviation or shipping, are initial estimates. More detailed information will be published in October and final official data for 2011 is due in mid-2013.