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EU’s CO2 emissions fall for first time since pandemic

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The EU’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from energy use have finally started falling again after sharp rises were reported in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) said that emissions had fallen by 5 per cent over the past three months compared to the same time last year.

Its analysis is based on a new near-real-time emissions tracker, developed by CREA, which shows the recent fall in emissions has brought to an end a 16-month surge following significant falls during the pandemic.

The Covid-19 lockdowns had a dramatic impact on emissions, which fell by a record amount in 2020. But the drop was temporary and emissions surged back as economies reopened.

The tracker draws on real-time data from the EU electricity and gas transparency platforms, as well as on monthly Eurostat data on oil consumption. It shows demand for fossil fuels is currently falling due to high prices and strong wind and solar output, contrary to fears of a resurgence due to the energy crisis.

Concerns had been raised that with many countries looking to coal and other domestic supplies to shore up their energy security, emissions could increase once again. While the new analysis suggests otherwise, Europe still has some months to go before the peak of winter when energy demand is greatest.

In the UK for example, energy firm Drax delayed the closure of its coal-fired power plants in Yorkshire to ensure that electricity supplies remained sufficient throughout the ongoing energy crisis.

But EU governments have also raised their ambition on the transition to low-carbon energy, CREA said, which should accelerate the emissions reduction in coming years.

Investments in solar power and heat pumps, as well as sales of electric vehicles (EVs), have surged as a result of record-high fossil fuel prices.

Europe will add nearly 40GW of solar in 2022, according to SolarPower Europe, which would be up 45 per cent from the 27GW added last year, which itself was the highest in a decade.

Electric vehicle sales increased 16 per cent year-on-year in Europe in the second quarter of 2022, the first full quarter after the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

This comes on top of a 70 per cent increase in 2021, when one-in-six car sales were electric. The 2021 market share of EVs exceeded 50 per cent in the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway.

The European Heat Pump Association projects a 30 per cent increase in sales in 2022, on top of 35 per cent growth in 2021. Deliveries of heat pumps in Germany were up 25 per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2022 and the government has called on the industry to ramp up production.

“Some 19 EU countries have accelerated their decarbonisation plans and policies in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the gas crisis and Russian aggression. Low-carbon sources are set to reach 82 per cent of EU electricity in 2030, up from 74 per cent under previous plans,” according to the CREA analysis.

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