Preliminary analysis of greenhouse gas emissions across the 27 members of the EU in 2011 reveals they fell 2.5% compared to 2010. Emissions from the pre-enlargement EU-15 were 3.5% down on 2010 levels.
The European Environment Agency (EEA), which compiled the data, says the reductions came despite an upturn in economic growth, which saw EU gross domestic product (GDP) increase by 1.5% between 2010 and 2011.
At the same time, the European Commission published its annual report on the EU’s progress towards achieving its Kyoto Protocol objectives. The commission says the 2011 emissions estimates are consistent with the decreasing trend observed since 2004 and that the EU is on track to meet its Kyoto targets.
The international climate agreement, which was adopted in 1997, requires the EU–15 to collectively reduce its GHG emissions by 8% against base-year levels by 2012, while 10 member states also have individual commitments under the protocol.
“The EU as a whole will over-deliver on its Kyoto target”, said Jacqueline McGlade, EEA executive director. “In two months’ time we will be at the end of the first commitment period under the protocol. Considerable progress has been made since 1997.”
Climate change commissioner Connie Hedegaard said the figures are evidence that emissions can be cut without inhibiting economic growth: “The EU is delivering on its Kyoto commitment. These figures prove once again that emissions can be cut without sacrificing the economy.”
According to the EEA, the fall in emissions throughout most of Europe in 2011 is due to lower fossil-fuel consumption during the mild winter. On average, the total consumption of fossil fuels decreased by 2.4% in 2011, with use of natural gas falling 5.2%.
The largest absolute decrease in emissions occurred in the UK, where they fell by 35.9 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent or 6.1%. At the same time, France and Germany reduced their emissions by 4.6% and 1.8% respectively. The fall in CO2 emissions between 2010 and 2011 in the UK was primarily from a decrease in residential gas use due to a mild winter, combined with a reduction in demand for electricity, reports the agency.
Based on its estimates for last year, the EEA says total EU–15 emissions in 2011 would be 13.8 % below the 1990 level, while total GHG emissions across the EU–27 were almost 17.5 % below 1990 emissions.
Total energy consumption from renewable energy increased in the EU–27 in 2011, says the agency, adding that the use of renewables continues to play an important role in GHG mitigation efforts across the bloc.
During 2010, EU emissions increased 2.4%. Final 2011 GHG emissions for the bloc will be available in the first half of 2013.