Total greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union (EU) increased by 0.7% in 2017 compared with 2016 while data for 1990-2017 show that the region reduced its net greenhouse gas emissions by 21.7% over the 1990-2017 period. According to the European Environment Agency, the EU is therefore still exceeding its Source: European Environment Agency Source: European Environment Agency 20% greenhouse gas reduction target set for 2020.

Much of the 0.7% rise in emissions documented during 2017 is attributed to increases in carbon dioxide emissions from road transportation. Most of the increase was accounted for by higher diesel consumption by trucks and vans, but consumption and emissions also climbed for passenger cars. Emissions from international aviation increased substantially due to higher demand and consumption of jet kerosene. Across the EU, several industrial sectors also recorded higher emissions in 2017 as a result of higher economic and industrial activity compared to 2016.

Poland and Spain accounted for the largest increases in greenhouse gas emissions in absolute terms in 2017. In Poland, the increase was mainly due to higher emissions from road transportation while in Spain, the bulk of the net emissions increase was accounted for by higher use of coal for power generation.

Greenhouse gas inventory data for 1990-2017 show that emissions have declined since 1990 as a combined result of policies, economic and structural factors and, on average, milder winters. The U.K. and Germany accounted for about 50% of the total net reduction in EU emissions during the past 27 years.

Total emissions decreased by 1,327 million tons since 1990 (or 23.5%), reaching their lowest level during in 2014 (4,307 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent). The largest emission cuts have been made in the energy sector, due to efficiency improvements, increased use of renewables and a less carbon-intensive mix of fossil fuels — more gas and less coal and oil.

Reductions in emissions from nitrous oxide and methane have also been substantial, reflecting lower levels of mining activities, reductions in agricultural livestock, and lower emissions from managed waste disposal on land and from agricultural soils.

To contact the author of this article, email shimmelstein@globalspec.com