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European greenhouse gas emissions increased by 2.4% in 2010, or 111 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent, due to a cold winter and the economic recovery following the 2009 recession in many countries.

About 56% of the EU increase in GHG emissions was accounted for by Germany, the United Kingdom and Poland, with a growth in hydrofluorocarbon emissions becoming a worrying factor.

The figures were supplied by the European Environment Agency today and cover all greenhouse gas emissions of the 27 member states of the European Union. They corroborate the figures released last week from the latest figures from the International Energy Agency, revealing that global greenhouse gas emissions reached a record high of 31.6 gigatonnes last year, an increase of 1Gt, or 3.2%, on 2010.

EEA Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade said that “the increase could have been even higher without the fast expansion of renewable energy generation in the EU.” The report itself also attributes the reduced increase to “the improved carbon intensity of fossil fuels, underpinned by strong gas consumption".

Nevertheless, final energy demand increased by 3.7% in 2010, outpacing the increase in economic output (2.0%).

In the previous year there was a sharp 7.3% decrease due to the recession. Combined with this, the EU is still fully on track to meet its Kyoto target. The long-term trend of reduction is continuing, with emissions to 15.4% below levels in 1990. However, the emissions from the 15 member states with a common commitment under the Kyodo Protocol in 2010 were just 11% below 1990 emissions.

“This rebound effect was expected as most of Europe came out of recession,” said McGlade. Economic growth was positive in the EU as a whole in that year, with GDP increasing by about 2% compared to 2009.

EU  greenhouse gas emissions 2009-2010

The worst performers

The overall EU GHG emission trend is dominated by the EU-15 (mainly by Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Spain) accounting for 80.4% of total EU-27 GHG emissions.

Germany has the highest emissions of all European countries, at 1246.1 million tonnes, followed by the United Kingdom with 763.9 million tonnes, France (559), Italy (519.2) and Poland (457.4). Of the new Member States, Poland contributes most to the total EU-27 GHG emissions, namely 8.5%, followed by the Czech Republic and Romania (2.9% and 2.6%, respectively).

Between 2009 and 2010 the UK increased its emissions by 3.1% and Germany by 2.7%. The worst performers were Estonia (a 25.2% increase), Finland (up 12.8%), Sweden (up 11%) and Latvia (up 10.2%). In line with their poor economic performance, continued emission reductions were experienced in Greece and Portugal (both -5.1%), Spain (-2.8%), Cyprus (-2.4%) and Romania (-1.6%).

The industrial sectors covered by the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) increased their emissions more in 2010 than those outside the EU ETS. They increased by 2.5%, with emissions from industrial sectors rising by 5.2%. However, this increase was lower than the growth in industrial gross value added that year, showing a slight reduction in carbon intensity.

In terms of overall performance since the base year of 1990, the United Kingdom and Germany are in the median position of European countries with a reduction of 24%. Spain is the worst performer over this period with an increase of 22.8% on the base year, followed by Portugal (up 17.4%), Greece (up 10.6%), Ireland (up 10.3%) and Austria (up 7%).

The top overall performers are in Eastern Europe: Lithuania (a reduction of 57.9%), Romania (down 56.4%), Bulgaria (down 53.7%), Latvia (down 53.4%) and Estonia (down 51.9%). Even coal-reliant Poland has managed a reduction of 28.9% on its base year.

The main reason for emission reductions in Germany is increasing efficiency in power and heating plants, but in the UK it is mostly due to the liberalisation of energy markets and the subsequent fuels switches from oil and coal to gas, plus nitrogen dioxide emission reduction measures in the production of adipic acid, widely used in the manufacture of nylon and polyurethane.

The household and services sectors accounted for the highest increases in emissions, increasing by 43 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent compared to 2009, mostly attributable to the colder winter in 2010.

HFC emissions up

A worrying trend is that hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions are increasing at a faster rate than carbon emissions now, and becoming more significant as a result. Each HFC molecule does 11,700 times more damage as a greenhouse gas than a carbon dioxide one over a 100 year period.

There was an increase in their emission in 2010 of 4.4 million tonnes or 6.6%, stemming from these gases' use in refrigeration and air conditioning. Finland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom are responsible for the largest increases in absolute terms. The UK's emission of HFCs is 125% up on 1990 levels.

All the figures are based on data submitted by member states and then checked by the European Commission and the EEA. They cover information up to 28 March 2011. All parties to the Kyoto Protocol also have to provide information on how they are implementing their greenhouse gas commitments to minimise impact on developing countries. This information is presented in the full report.

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