Greenhouse gas emissions by EU member states in 2011 were 3.3 per cent lower than 2010 with the UK achieving the best results.
Despite being generally attributed to the mild 2011 winter, the results are optimistic as they represent the lowest level of emissions in reports going back to 1990. The decrease in 2011 was also the third largest over the monitored period, according to official data compiled by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and reported by the EU to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
“The EU is making clear progress towards its emission targets,” said Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director. She pointed out, however, that the energy mix used during this period was far from perfect. “There was an increase in consumption of more carbon-intensive fuels such as coal, while hydroelectricity production and gas consumption decreased. If Europe is to achieve the transition towards a low-carbon society, it will need sustained investment in technology and innovation,” she said.
The European Union’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2011 were 18.4 per cent below 1990 levels, according to the EU greenhouse gas inventory. When international aviation is included, in line with the climate and energy package, greenhouse gas emissions fell 17 per cent in the EU since 1990. The 2011 results are even better than the previously published estimates, with homes and business businesses saving the most.
The biggest contribution to the overall EU reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in 2011 was made by the UK, France and Germany. In terms of percentage, Finland achieved the best results cutting 10 per cent of its emissions. On the other hand, Bulgaria’s emissions increased by 9.6 per cent, followed by Romania and Spain.
Even though fossil fuel consumption decreased by 5 per cent in the EU in 2011, the average carbon intensity of the fossil fuels used was higher, with solid fuel consumption, such as hard coal and lignite, rising by almost 2 per cent between 2010 and 2011. Liquid fuel consumption decreased by 4 per cent and natural gas consumption fell by almost 11 per cent.
Consumption of energy from renewable sources experienced the second largest decline of the last 21 years in percentage terms, mainly due to significantly lower hydroelectricity production. Wind and solar, however, continued increasing strongly in 2011. Biomass combustion increased by less than 1 per cent in EU-27 in 2011.
Nuclear power’s contribution to electricity also declined in the EU in 2011 compared to 2010, mainly due to closure of power plants in Germany, according to Eurostat energy data. Road transport emissions continued to decline in 2011 for the fourth consecutive year. In contrast, emissions from international aviation and shipping increased in 2011.
The EU aims to cut emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 although some countries, including the UK, have called for a more ambitious target of 30 per cent.