The EU records a 34% reduction in its GHG emissions, and exceeds its climate target for 2020
The European Union has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 34% in 2020 compared to 1990 levels, exceeding the 20% target set by the Union, according to official data submitted on Tuesday (31 May) at the UNFCCC.
The European Environment Agency (EEA) submitted official EU data to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on Wednesday.
The 961-page stocktaking report confirms preliminary data suggesting the European Union is on track to meet its 2020 climate target.
The EU had already cut emissions by 26% in 2019 and hit its 20% target before lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact emission levels, the EEA said. .
Emissions fell 11% in 2020 alone as EU countries shut down their economies to contain the coronavirus outbreak, the EEA said, admitting lockdowns “have had a significant impact on reducing emissions in 2020.”
However, “The data confirms a 30-year downward trend that has seen the EU meet its 2020 emissions reduction target of 20% below 1990 levels”she said in a statement.
Over the past 30 years, EU emissions reductions have been driven mainly by the increasing use of renewables and the substitution of coal for gas in electricity generation.
The report shows that the use of coal has seen an unprecedented decline and will be three times lower in 2020 than in 1990.
According to the EEA, lower heating demand linked to milder winters in Europe also played a role.
But while manufacturing industries saw an overall drop in emissions, there were notable exceptions in transport, refrigeration and air conditioning, whose emissions rose by 53 and 80 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent respectively, according to the report. report.
While almost all EU countries have succeeded in reducing their emissions, the decline is mainly attributable to the United Kingdom and Germany, which accounted for 47% of total net reductions over the past 30 years, said notice the AEE.
With the UK leaving the EU in 2020 and emissions rising again after the coronavirus pandemic, numbers are likely to be less positive in future reports.
According to EU data released last year, emissions jumped 18% last spring as the economy recovered from production shutdowns due to the pandemic. Additionally, Europe’s exit from coal was halted in its tracks in 2021 due to rising gas prices, which discouraged the transition from coal to gas.
“The 11% decline in 2019-20 is good news from a climate perspective, but likely primarily caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated decline in overall economic activity”said Wijnand Stoefs of Carbon Market Watch, a non-profit organization.
“We expect 2021 and 2022 figures to see a rebound, for example EU ETS emissions have already increased by 7.3% in 2021”stressed Mr Stoefs, referring to the EU’s carbon market, the emissions trading system.
“As the EEA has made clear, there is a serious risk of emissions rebounding,” added Camille Maury, from WWF’s European Policy Office. In addition, the ongoing reform of the EU carbon market “is not on track to achieve our climate neutrality objectives”she said in comments emailed to EURACTIV.
Overall, environmental groups have not been convinced by the EU’s record, saying the bar for 2020 has been set far too low.
“The targets for 2020 were simply not ambitious enough, and were therefore achieved without any real effort”said Mr. Stoefs. “The lesson to be learned is that we need more ambitious targets, including for 2030”.
“Achieving too low a climate target due to a temporary economic downturn is nothing to cheer about. Aiming for or achieving targets lower than what the scientific community considers to be the EU’s responsibility to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees is a waiver of its responsibilities.said Silvia Pastorelli, Greenpeace’s EU climate campaign manager.
Under EU climate law approved last year, the European Union is aiming for a 55% net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, before reaching net zero emissions by at 2050.