GHG emission levels lowest they’ve been in three decades according to EU Climate Action Progress Reports

On 30 November, the European Commission adopted its annual EU Climate Action Progress Report, covering the EU’s progress in cutting greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. What stood out was the conclusion that in 2019, emissions in the EU decreased by 3.7 % when compared to 2018. At the same time, the GDP managed to grow by 1.5%. According to the report, the EU remains well on track to achieve its target under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change of reducing emissions by 20% by 2020. In fact, the EU has reduced its greenhouse gas emission levels by 24% since 1990. Over this same thirty-year period, the EU’s combined GDP grew by about 60%.

Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, commented: “The European Union is proving it is possible to reduce emissions and grow your economy. However, today’s report again confirms we need to step up our efforts across all sectors of the economy to reach our common goal of climate neutrality by 2050. The transition is feasible if we stick to our commitment and seize the opportunities of the recovery to reboot our economy in a greener, more resilient way and create a healthy, sustainable future for all.”

The greatest reduction was seen with the Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) while emissions that are not covered by the EU ETS, such as those from non-ETS industry, transport, buildings, agriculture and waste, saw no significant change compared to 2018 levels.

The year 2019 was a significant milestone for European climate action. The European Council agreed in December on the EU becoming climate-neutral by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement. The European Parliament had already endorsed the objective in its resolution on climate change of March. To ensure climate neutrality by 2050, the Commission presented the European Green Deal as a comprehensive multi-sectoral roadmap toward a green and just transition. In principle, all EU actions and policies should pull together to help the EU achieve a successful and just transition towards a sustainable future.

In 2019, all Member States prepared their final integrated National Energy and Climate Plans. These show that while Member States have made significant progress in defining their respective paths to reaching the current 2030 climate and energy targets, further efforts are still needed. With existing national policies and measures implemented, EU-27 total emissions are projected to be reduced by 30% in 2030 according to aggregated national GHG projections.

Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020, a recovery package and the 2021-2027 budget have been designed with the purpose of helping the EU to rebuild after the pandemic and supporting investment in the twin green and digital transitions.

The biggest potential to create a quick economic stimulus in the area of climate and energy policy has been identified in the areas of building renovation, renewable energy, renewable hydrogen, and infrastructure, as well as clean mobility such as electric vehicles and charging points, smart grids and energy sector integration.

The COVID-19 crisis is expected to lead to an unprecedented fall in emissions for 2020. The International Energy Agency anticipates an estimated drop of 8% in 2020 for global CO2 emissions. The carbon monitor estimates that EU-27 emissions in the first half of the year 2020 have dropped by 11% compared to the same period of 2019. However, as experienced in the past, a swift economic recovery may lead to a strong and rapid rebound in emissions. EU expenditure on climate action, financing of green technologies, deployment of new solutions and international cooperation increased in 2019, and is expected to see a further increase in the context of Europe’s recovery from COVID-19. The first reliable data on the impacts of the pandemic on EU emissions will be available in next year’s report.


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