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EU greenhouse gas emissions down 22% since 2008

Nearly every industry has achieved decreases in emissions, with manufacturing and households now topping the charts.

(CN) — The European Union cut greenhouse gas emissions by nearly a quarter in the 13 years between 2008 and 2021, led by notable reductions in industries such as mining, electrification and manufacturing. But in that time, emissions from both the manufacturing sector and individual households eclipsed the historically high volume produced by power suppliers.

The findings were released Wednesday by EU statistics agency Eurostat as part of its annual air emissions accounts, which monitor the emissions of some 64 economic activities, plus households.

All told, the EU generated some 3.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalents last year, or 22% less than in 2008, when Eurostat began tracking the data. Mining and quarrying activities reduced emissions by 42% while manufacturing fell 23%, from 1 billion tons in 2008 to 799 million tons in 2021. Emissions from the supply of electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning are down 39%, to 720 million tons.

Only agriculture, forestry and fishing activities remained stagnant, as its byproducts include more nitrous oxide and methane than other industries, whose primary contribution is carbon dioxide.

A coal-fired power station steams in the cold winter air in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, in February 2018. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, file)

The EU also recorded a 37% decrease in emissions of acidifying gases including ammonia, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. Meanwhile, there was a 32% decrease in emissions of ozone precursors, which include nitrogen oxides, non-methane volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide and methane.  

Household emissions fell 13% since 2008, from 854 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents to 740 million tons. The current level is second only to manufacturing.

Eurostat noted that while the top five greenhouse gas emitting industries account for about 60% of all emissions, they only contribute around 7% of the EU’s gross domestic product.

Of its 27 member states, Germany led the pack in 2021 with 794 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, followed by France, Poland, Italy and Spain. The countries with the fewest emissions were Malta with 2.3 million tons, Cyprus with 8.5 million tons and Luxembourg with 10.2 million tons. 

The variation is due in part to “different economic structures and different mixes of renewable and non-renewable energy sources,” according to Eurostat, which uses the data in cooperation with the European Environmental Agency to inform on current climate efforts.

In 2020, the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, adopted a policy known as the European Green Deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. The EU also ratified the Paris Climate Accords in 2015, which aim to limit the mean rise in global temperature by encouraging parties to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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