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EEA: Higher EU greenhouse gas emissions in 2010 due to economic recovery and cold winter

Greenhouse gas emissions increased in the EU in 2010 as a result of both economic recovery in many countries after the 2009 recession and a colder winter, according to the latest greenhouse gas inventory published by the European Environment Agency (EEA). Nonetheless, emissions growth was somewhat contained by continued strong growth in renewable energy sources.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the 27 Member States of the European Union (EU-27) increased by 2.4 % (or 111 million tonnes CO2 equivalent) between 2009 and 2010. This can be partially explained by the fact that there was a sharp 7.3% (or -365 million tonnes) decrease of emissions between 2008 and 2009.

The EU remains fully on track to meet its Kyoto target, according to the EEA. The long-term reduction trend continued, as EU-27 greenhouse gas emissions still remained 15.4% below 1990 levels in 2010. Emissions in the 15 Member States with a common commitment under the Kyoto Protocol (EU-15) in 2010 were 11% below the Kyoto Protocol base year. These consolidated figures confirm earlier estimates for the EU, published by the EEA in October 2011.

Emissions increased in 2010. This rebound effect was expected as most of Europe came out of recession. However, the increase could have been even higher without the fast expansion of renewable energy generation in the EU.

—EEA Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade

Higher emissions were partly due to the economic recovery (GDP grew by 2% in the EU in 2010), as many European countries emerged from the 2009 recession. Higher final energy demand (+3.7 % in 2010) also contributed to the emissions growth. Moreover, the winter in 2010 was colder than in the previous year, leading to higher heating demand.

However, GHG emissions growth was contained by several factors. As in previous years the growth in the use of renewable energy sources continued in 2010 with a 12.7% increase of total consumption of energy from renewable sources. In addition, gas prices fell markedly in 2010 and EU total consumption of gas used for energy purposes went up by 7.4%. The higher share of gas led to an improved carbon intensity of fossil fuel consumption in many Member States.

Other findings include:

  • Emissions were higher in most of the key sectors in 2010, particularly those sectors relying on fossil-fuel combustion. Sectors with the highest GHG emissions growth included: CO2 emissions from residential and commercial sectors (caused by a higher heating demand due to a colder winter); CO2 emissions from manufacturing industries and construction (including iron and steel process emissions); and CO2 emissions from public heat and electricity production.

  • Road transport emissions continued to fall in 2010, despite more demand for freight transport.

  • Higher industrial activity during 2010, after the economic contraction in 2009, appears to have led to higher final energy demand and related emissions in those sectors covered by the EU emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) compared to other sectors.

  • Among the greenhouse gases reported to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), carbon dioxide (CO2) accounted for the largest increase in emissions in 2010. The gas represented 82% of total EU GHG emissions.

  • Industry emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), extremely potent GHGs, grew significantly in 2010, continuing the upward trend observed since 1990.

  • Methane (8.6 % of total EU GHG emissions in CO2 equivalent) and nitrous oxide (7.2 %) declined.

  • Germany, Poland and the United Kingdom accounted for 56% of the EU’s total net increase in GHG emissions. The relative growth in emissions was highest in Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Latvia. Spain, Greece and Portugal again reported lower GHG emissions in 2010.

The report is the annual submission of the greenhouse gas inventory of the European Union to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and under the Kyoto Protocol. It presents greenhouse gas emissions between 1990 and 2010 for the EU-27, the EU-15, individual Member States and by economic sector. It covers emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases.

The official EU submission to the UNFCCC is the result of a compilation made by the EEA. In autumn the EEA will publish early estimates for the 2011 emissions in the EU, and also a Trends and Projections report, looking ahead to assess progress against emissions targets.




Many stations have recently recorded over 400 ppm in the Arctic region for the very first time. This may be the highest CO2 concentration for the last many thousand years.

What will be the consequences?

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