This article was published by The Energy Mix on Feb. 4, 2024.
By Mitchell Beer
The European Union’s carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels dropped last year to levels last seen in the early 1960s, with cleaner electricity delivering more than half of the 8 per cent reduction the EU achieved in a single year, concludes a report released late last month by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).
Clean electricity accounted for 56 per cent of the single-year decline, and the power sector reduced its emissions 25 per cent between 2022 and 2023, CREA reports [pdf] in an eight-page analysis. The EU has cut its coal emissions in half since 2015, and reduced its gas-related emissions 11 per cent over a single year.
“EU CO2 emissions have finally fallen back to levels apparent in my parents’ generation in the 1960s,” CREA analyst Isaac Levi said [pdf] in a release. “Yet, over this time period, the economy has tripled, showing that climate change can be combatted without foregoing economic growth.”
CREA found that:
• The 8 per cent emissions drop between 2022 and 2023 was the second-fastest since the bottom fell out of energy demand during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in 2020.
• The shift in the power sector was driven by continuing growth in solar and wind deployment, as well as rebounds in hydropower and nuclear capacity.
• EU coal consumption dipped below pre-pandemic levels, even as the continent scrambled to end its dependence on Russian gas following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Coal emissions fell 25 per cent between 2022 and 2023, while oil emissions dropped just 2 per cent.
• Reductions in other sectors, primarily industry and transport, accounted for 36 per cent of the emissions decline, while a decrease in electricity demand contributed 8 per cent. Favourable weather conditions delivered 19 per cent of the total.
CREA said the EU still has more work to do to diversify its energy sources, smooth the transition to clean electricity, and widen its view beyond the immediate concern about Russian gas. “The 8 per cent reduction in emissions should be celebrated,” Levi said “But more must be done to wean the EU off fossil fuels, reduce reliance on petrostates such as Russia, whilst also leaving the world a better place for the next generation.”
“Further investments in renewable energy infrastructure and technologies, encompassing wind, solar, hydropower, and other clean energy sources, will help achieve a continued reduction in CO2 emissions,” the report states.
Earlier in the month, the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change warned that the 27-member EU will have to double the pace of its emission reductions to hit its 2030 climate target, the Guardian reports.
“The EU has made great progress in recent years to strengthen its climate policy framework,” said advisory board chair Prof. Ottmar Edenhofer, the German economist who heads the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change. “But reaching climate neutrality by 2050 is a race against the clock and we cannot afford to lean back now.”