Greenhouse gas emissions across EU climb 18%

Greenhouse gas emissions across EU climb 18%

The rebound in emissions in the second quarter of 2021 was driven by manufacturing and construction at a third of the overall total.

Greenhouse gas emissions across the EU were 18% higher in the second quarter of 2021 compared to the same three-month block last year, following a major rebound in areas such as manufacturing and construction.

Eurostat, the analysis wing of the European Commission, has estimated quarterly emissions for the first time, going back to 2010 and reviewing each three-month block in the 11 years.

Emissions were at their lowest in the 11 years in the second quarter of 2020, at the height of restrictions across Europe due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Despite the 18% rise when comparing this year's second quarter to the same period last year, emissions are still below any quarter in the 10 years before the pandemic began, Eurostat estimated.

"In the second quarter of 2021, EU greenhouse gas emissions totalled 867 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents, below the pre-pandemic levels for any quarter. The lowest ever value was recorded in the second quarter of 2020, during the Covid-19 outbreak," Eurostat said.

CO2 equivalent is the standard unit for measuring all greenhouse gases when put together. They include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and fluorinated gases, and are measures in a common unit for simplicity and clarity purposes.

The rebound in emissions in the second quarter of 2021 was driven by manufacturing and construction at a third of the overall total, followed by electricity supply at 19%, agriculture at 14%, transport at 8%, and services other than transport at 8%, according to Eurostat estimates.

Households by themselves across the EU accounted for 101 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent for their transport, plus 52 million tonnes for heating and other purposes.

The long-term trend of EU greenhouse gas emissions displays a steady reduction, Eurostat said.

"The most recent data established according to the United Nations convention on climate change (UNFCCC) rules show that in 2020, the 27 EU member states' domestic greenhouse gas emissions were down by 31% from 1990 levels."

According to the Commission's own climate action progress report published this month, this decade is "make-or-break" in the fight against the climate and biodiversity crises.

It said that despite progress in reducing emissions since 1990, it was not nearly enough. A return to carbon-intensive economic activity post-pandemic will hinder the progress made unless green policies are enacted across the EU, it said.

"Despite achievements so far, it is crucial to recall that a swift economic recovery may lead to a high and rapid increase in emissions, unless stimulus measures are geared toward the green transition. Lastly, given the unprecedented climate change impacts, we must act faster than ever before to secure a green, just and prosperous future," the report said.

The stark findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in the summer led to a range of new commitments at the United Nations climate change summit Cop26 in Glasgow in November.

The IPCC report said that said the global temperature in 2020 was nearly 1.1C warmer than 19th century levels, and that the evidence was clear and incontrovertible that  people are driving global warming.

That warming has led to more extreme heatwaves, flooding, wildfires, and rising sea levels, and will become even more damaging if action is not taken as a matter of urgency, it said.

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