GHG emissions in the European Union are falling. What does the economy have to say about it?


Eurostat has published data for the third quarter of 2023. They show that GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions in the EU have decreased by as much as 7.1 percent. compared to the same quarter in the previous year. Contrary to the predictions of ecosceptics, this reduction was not associated with a significant slowdown in economic growth. EU GDP remained stable, registering a minimal decline of 0.2 percent. relative to 2022. Poland turned out to be one of eleven member countries that managed to combine emissions reductions with GDP growth.

Leaders in ranking the fight against climate change

In the third quarter of 2023. EU countries produced a total of 787 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent – down 60 million tons from the same quarter in 2022. This sum includes all greenhouse gases emitted by industry and households, namely carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, methane and fluorinated gases (HFCs, PFCs, SF6, NF3).

The absolute record-holder was Estonia, where GHG emissions declined by as much as 30.7 percent on a quarterly basis. The catalyst for the green transformation in this small Baltic republic was paradoxically the war in Ukraine, which prompted the authorities to actively develop renewable energy sources. The decrease of18.4 percent. was recorded by Bulgaria, and third in the ranking was Germany with a 12.2 percent reduction in greenhouse activity.

However, there are still marauders in the Union. GHG emissions rose by as much as 7.7 percent in Malta, where the main problem is the economy’s high dependence on gas and oil, with RES accounting for just 4.1 percent of total energy supply. Three other countries that have failed to reduce emissions are Cyprus, Latvia and Slovakia.

Does reducing GHG emissions slow economic growth?

Since the Industrial Revolution, the growth of the economy has clearly translated into greater consumption of fossil fuels. According to representatives of the International Energy Agency, however, this dependence is gradually beginning to weaken. The latest Eurostat data seem to confirm this thesis.

As many as eleven EU member states have managed to reduce GHG emissions while increasing the value of GDP. This group included Poland, where the reduction in produced greenhouse gases on a quarterly basis exceeded 9 percent. By more than 5 percent. emissions in Belgium and Spain fell, coupled with a noticeable increase in gross domestic product. In Estonia, Germany, the Czech Republic and Finland, on the other hand, economic development has slowed down, but it is difficult to relate this fact directly to decarbonization efforts – there are many more important economic factors determining the health of the economy.

GHG emissions fall thanks to gas and energy suppliers

The analysis of changes in the structure of emissions in the European Union brings very interesting conclusions. The sector that made the most significant contribution to lowering the production of climate-damaging gases was electricity supply, gas supply and refrigeration. Comparing the third quarters of 2022 and 2023, GHG emissions fell by as much as 23.7 percent. This is by no means a phenomenon, as a similar analysis of the second quarter showed emissions falling by more than 1 percent, and the first quarter by almost 13 percent from the previous year.

The reduction in carbon footprint was also noticeable in the EU household sector, which reduced GHG emissions by 6.5 percent. relative to 2022. On the positive side, emissions in the industrial sector also decreased by 4.9 percent. However, this does not change the fact that industry remains the dominant source of carbon dioxide and other harmful gases – its share of the entire European emission structure is 21.6 percent. Energy and gas supply ranked second, followed by agriculture in third place. The latter issued in the third quarter of 2023. more gases than a year ago, as did the water and wastewater treatment industry.

According to Eurostat experts, the above data can be the basis for formulating further strategies that reconcile the economic growth of EU member states with sustainable development. In particular, it is important to update the final deadlines for reducing GHG emissions in Europe in line with the Green Deal action plan. Measuring emissions makes it possible to estimate whether current production and consumption are compatible with accepted economic, social and environmental goals.

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