EU exceeds 2020 climate target and records 34% drop in emissions –

The European Union has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 34% below 1990 levels by 2020, surpassing the bloc’s 20% target, according to official data submitted Wednesday (31 May) to the UNFCCC.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) on Wednesday submitted official EU data to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The 961-page stocktaking report confirmed preliminary data suggesting the European Union was on track to meet its 2020 climate target.

The EU had already cut emissions by 26% in 2019 and hit its 20% target before COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns began to impact emission levels, the EEA said. .

Emissions fell 11% in 2020 alone as EU countries shut down their economies to contain the coronavirus outbreak, the EEA said, admitting COVID-19 lockdowns “have had an impact substantial reduction in emissions in 2020”.

Still, “the data confirms a 30-year downward trend that has led the EU to meet its 2020 target of reducing emissions by 20% below 1990 levels,” it said in a statement.

Over the past 30 years, EU emissions reductions have been driven primarily by the increasing use of renewable energy and the substitution of coal for gas in electricity generation.

The report showed that coal use has seen an unprecedented decline and was three times lower in 2020 than in 1990.

The EEA said lower heating demand due to warmer winters in Europe also played a role.

But although manufacturing industries saw an overall drop in emissions, there were notable exceptions with transport, refrigeration and air conditioning, whose emissions rose by 53 and 80 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent respectively, according to The report.

While almost all EU countries have succeeded in reducing their emissions, the decline is mainly due to the United Kingdom and Germany, which have accounted for 47% of total net reductions over the past 30 years, said notice the AEE.

As the UK leaves the EU in 2020 and emissions rise again after the coronavirus pandemic, the numbers may not look so rosy in future reports.

Emissions jumped 18% in the spring of last year as the economy recovered from pandemic shutdowns, according to EU data released last year. And Europe’s exit from coal was brought to a halt in 2021 due to rising gas prices, which discouraged the switch from coal to gas.

“The 11% decline in 2019-20 is good news from a climate perspective, but likely primarily caused by COVID and the associated drop in overall economic activity,” said Wijnand Stoefs of Carbon Market Watch, a group non-profit.

“We expect the 2021 and 2022 numbers to rebound – for example, EU ETS emissions have already increased by 7.3% in 2021,” Stoefs pointed out, referring to the EU’s carbon market. EU, the emissions trading system.

“As the EEA has made clear, there is a serious risk of a rebound in emissions,” added Camille Maury of WWF’s European Policy Office. And the EU’s ongoing carbon market reform “is not on track to achieve our climate neutrality goals”, she said in comments emailed to EURACTIV.

Overall, environmental groups were unimpressed with the EU’s record, saying the bar for 2020 was far too low.

“The 2020 targets were simply not ambitious enough, so they were achieved without real effort,” Stoefs said. “The lesson here is that we need more ambitious targets, including for 2030.”

“Achieving too low a climate target due to a temporary economic downturn is nothing to cheer about. Aiming or hitting targets lower than what science says is the EU’s share of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees is an abdication of responsibility,” said Greenpeace climate activist Silvia Pastorelli. EU.

Under EU climate law approved last year, the European Union is aiming for a 55% net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 before reaching net zero by 2050.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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