June 23, 2024
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EU: Record reduction in power sector emissions

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The European Union saw carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and industrial sites drop a record 15.5 percent last year, the bloc’s executive said. 

The main reason that soaring renewable energy output caused fossil fuel-produced electricity to drop steeply in 2023, with power sector pollution falling 24 percent compared to 2022. 

In a statement late Wednesday, the European Commission called the 15.5 percent decline in emissions covered by the bloc’s carbon market— also known as the Emissions Trading System (ETS) — a “record” reduction. 

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The 2023 drop was even steeper than in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic drove ETS emissions down 13.3 percent, followed by a 7.3 percent rebound in 2021. In 2022, emissions declined by less than 2 percent.

The preliminary 2023 data shows that “ETS emissions are now around 47% below 2005 levels and well on track to achieve the 2030 target of -62%,” the Commission said. 

The ETS regulated about 45 percent of the bloc’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2023, covering energy-intensive industries, power plants and some flights within Europe. The scheme, which charges a price for licenses to pollute, expanded in 2024 to also cover shipping emissions. 

The 24 percent drop in power sector emissions was largely driven by the increase in wind and solar electricity, the Commission said. 

Yet carbon market analysis firm Veyt cautioned that weak economic growth also played a role in depressing electricity demand.

“The power demand drop … might eventually be reversed if the economy rebounds,” said Ingvild Sørhus, manager for European carbon analysis at Veyt.

But that doesn’t invalidate the long-term trends, Sørhus added: “The buildout of renewable capacity and phase-out of coal, on the other hand, is more structural, and likely to persist.”

Industrial emissions fell 7 percent in 2023, which the EU executive attributed to efficiency improvements — as well as a decline in production.

European businesses are struggling with a mixture of high-interest rates, elevated energy costs, inflation and dwindling demand. So 2023’s industrial emissions decline, Sørhus noted, “should not fool us into believing” that major polluters will meet their climate targets.

Aviation emissions, meanwhile, rose 10 percent compared to 2022, part of a “continued rebound” from the pandemic, the Commission said, Politico reports.

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