The European Union (EU) has is the past, made considerable strides in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The block has also sought to assume the leadership role globally in the fight against climate change as it tries to convince other world powers to reduce their emissions. A recent report analyzing EU greenhouse emissions has, however, found that the EU is likely to miss its 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target. The revelation potentially deals a blow to the EU’s efforts to become the leading entity in the fight against climate change. At present, the 28-nation bloc, which is the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, seeks to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030. Some leaders believe that the target is insufficient and is calling for it to be raised to 55% by 2030. The European Environment Agency has stated that the measures currently put in place by the block will only lead to a 30% reduction compared to 1990 levels.
Germany is currently the largest greenhouse emitter in the EU. In 2017, the nation produced approximately 667 million tonnes of CO2. Germany was among the first major economies to make a big shift towards low carbon sources. The country is known for pioneering a system of subsidies for solar and wind farms that sparked a worldwide boom in the manufacturing of such technologies. The state currently seems to be grappling with the implications of failing to increase renewable sources of energy. The nation has had to extend the use of fossil-fuel plants and scale back on several commitments made under the Paris agreement. Germany has, however, been applauded for some of the biggest reductions in greenhouse emissions in Europe. The UK and Germany account for 50% of the net reduction of greenhouse gases in Europe over the last 27 years. The reductions have been achieved through increased energy efficiency, changes in the steel and iron sector, and a shift from coal to natural gas and renewables for electricity.
The United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the EU. The nation produced approximately 310 million tonnes of CO2 in 2017. Comparatively, the UK emission levels are less than half those of Germany. The nation is currently aiming at cutting emissions to almost zero by 2050, a much tougher goal that is widely praised by environmental groups. CO2 emissions have declined by about 38% since 1990, the largest reduction among developed countries. The reductions have been accomplished through a cleaner electricity mix that is based on gas and renewable sources of energy instead of coal and reduced fuel consumption by homes, businesses, and industries, among other factors.
In 2017, Poland released about 291 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, making it the third-largest emitter in Europe. Poland has managed to cut emissions considerably as a result of restructuring and transition into a market economy. The nation’s power sector, which is still heavily dependent on coal for electricity generation, is among the biggest contributors to Poland’s high CO2 emissions. The nation’s transport sector has also had high rates of emission growth in recent years. Recently, Poland differed from other European members on the emission targets and implementation by blocking Germany’s push to end EU carbon emissions by 2050.
Italy’s CO2 emissions in 2017 were approximately 260 million tonnes. Between 1990 and 2016, the country managed to reduce emissions by 17.5% (excluding emissions due to changes in land use). The country is therefore on track to meeting its 2020 goal of reducing emissions by 20%. The transport industry is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike the heating and public electricity sectors, emissions in the transport sector are still just above 1990 levels. Emissions from the aviation and international shipping industry have doubled in the same period.
France emitted about 237 million tonnes of CO2 in 2017. Greenhouse gas emissions have declined significantly in France in the last 25 years. In the period between 1990 and 2015, emissions in the country reduced by about 16.4%. The country is also among the first countries that have committed to cutting emissions and going carbon-neutral by 2050, in line with the Paris climate agreement. The nation also aims to speed up the development of low carbon energies and renewable hydrogen. France also hopes to reduce energy consumption in the housing sector, which accounts for 45% of energy consumption by encouraging the renovation of poorly insulated homes.
In 2017 Spain produced about 218 million tonnes of CO2. Over the last 27 years, emissions in the country grew by 17.9% while the EU collectively reduced emissions by 23.5%. Spain has therefore been classified as one of the worst performers in the reduction of greenhouse emissions. Other countries that have been unable to reduce emissions effectively include Cyprus, Austria, Malta, Ireland, and Portugal. Emissions rose drastically up until 2007 due to economic growth coupled with the lack of change in the energy mix. Emissions were only observed to drop significantly at the onset of the 2008 economic crisis. Spain has failed to separate economic growth trends from greenhouse gas emissions. Despite its past failings, the country still hopes to cut greenhouse emissions by 20% by the year 2030. Some observers, however, believe that emissions are unlikely to reduce significantly unless extraordinary steps are taken.
The Netherlands produced approximately 149.8 million tonnes of CO2 in 2017. Over the years, the country has had significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The cuts have been due to the closure of coal plants, increased renewable energy consumption, and the rise of the service sector. The highest court in the country recently upheld a ruling requiring the government to reduce greenhouse emissions by at least 25% of 1990 levels by the year 2020. Environmental researchers believe that the nation can only attain between 19% and 23% reduction by the end of 2020. While there have been cuts in nitrous oxide and methane as well as other gases, carbon dioxide levels have not changed according to the expectations since 1990. The Dutch government is currently aiming at reducing emission by 49% by 2030 and phasing out coal-fired power generation by 2020.
In 2017, the Czech Republic emitted about 83 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. The country is still reliant on coal, which provides about 55% of the nation’s energy. The government has, however, committed to a long term strategy that aims to break free from coal and other harmful fossil fuels. The country has, in the past, made significant strides in cutting its greenhouse gas emissions. In 2014, the country had managed to reduce emissions by 36.7%. During the same period, the EU had only managed to reduce emissions by 19%.
Carbon Trading To Cut Emissions In The EU
The cap-and-trade system was established by the EU 15 years ago to help reduce carbon emissions. The carbon trading system is seen as a cost-effective method of cutting emissions. The idea was to create incentives for polluters to reduce their emissions voluntarily. The system allows companies to either invest in carbon reduction or buy emission certificates, which means that the market finds the most economical ways of cutting emissions. The system has, however, had significant challenges since it was established. Experts have pointed out that the system’s cap on emissions has been too high, and the cost of emissions has been too low to have an impact.