EU transport emissions soar

21st June 2016

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Greenhouse-gas emissions (GHGs) across the EU from road transport, aviation and shipping have grown significantly, bucking the downward trend in other sectors that have seen overall emissions fall by 24% since 1990.

The data has been reported by the European Environment Agency (EEA) in its annual GHG inventory submission to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In absolute terms, greenhouse-gas emissions have declined by 1,383 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent since 1990, reaching 4,282 Mt/CO2e in 2014, the agency said.

Emissions fell in the majority of sectors over the 25-year period, the data revealed. Reductions were largest in manufacturing and construction (-372MtCO2e); electricity and heat production (-346MtCO2e); and residential heating (-140MtCO2e).

By contrast, emissions from road transport increased by 124Mt between 1990 and 2014, with a rise of 7Mt in 2013-14 alone.

Emissions from aviation and shipping, which are not included in national totals reported to the UNFCCC, increased by 93Mt between 1990 and 2014, the EEA noted.

In 2014, emissions from aviation had increased since 1990 to 138Mt/CO2e, which equates to a rise of more than 95%, the agency noted . Shipping emissions, meanwhile, increased to 135Mt/CO2e over the same timeframe, a rise of 24%. Together, the two sectors accounted for around 6% of total GHGs from the EU in 2014.

Jos Dings, executive director of campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E), said transport is now ‘without question’ Europe’s biggest climate problem.

The European Commission is planning to publish a strategy to decarbonise transport in Europe on 20 July. It is also expected to announce proposals to implement a pledge by EU leaders to cut GHG emissions from sectors outside the EU emissions trading system (EU ETS), the largest of which is transport, by 30% between 2005 and 2030 in the so-called ‘effort sharing decision’.

Bill Hemmings, T&E’s aviation and shipping director, said: ‘These trends are a clear risk to achieving the EU’s 2030 emissions reduction targets and show clearly that effective measures to control aviation and shipping emissions are urgently needed at European level.’

T&E also claimed that transport emissions are higher than the EEA figures show because biofuels used in transport are counted as zero-carbon and so are not included in the calculations. Research by the group earlier this year revealed that most biofuels used in Europe are worse for the climate than equivalent fossil fuels. This means transport emissions are around 6% higher than the EEA indicates, it said.

The EEA data also revealed that:

  • GHG emissions from hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used in the production of air conditioning systems and fridges, increased by 99Mt.
  • Between 2013 and 2014, GHG emissions declined by 185Mt across member states, mainly due to lower residential heat demand due to an unusually warm winter in Europe.
  • The increase in wind and solar power, improvements to energy efficiency, economic restructuring and continuing repercussions from the 2008 (needs some explanation even if referring to overall decline since 1990) recession were also major reasons for the fall in emissions.
  • There has been a progressive decoupling of the economy and emissions, with GDP increasing by 47% compared with a drop in emissions of around 47% since 1990.
  • Germany and the UK accounted for almost half (45%) of the EU’s net decrease in emissions. Germany achieved large emissions reductions by making power and heating plants more efficient, restructuring the economy following reunification, and increasing use of renewable energy. In the UK, lower GHG emissions are mainly due to switching from oil and coal to gas in electricity production; a shift towards more efficient combined cycle gas turbine stations; decreasing iron and steel production; and methane recovery at landfill sites.


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