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Defying expectations, EU emissions plunged this fall

Carbon dioxide emissions in the European Union reached a 30-year low this November — upending forecasts that a surge in fossil fuel imports would do the opposite, a new report revealed.

The EU’s ongoing energy crisis, driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, generated concern that a subsequent scramble for fossil fuels would cause an increase in the bloc’s emissions, according to the report released by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. 

Yet power sector emissions and coal use plunged in November for the third month in a row, the Helsinki-based organization determined. 

The report, which relied on near real-time tracking of carbon emissions within the EU, attributed these surprising developments to a “misunderstanding” about resource acquisition and actual consumption.

The EU increased its fossil fuel imports from around the world to replace lost supplies after Moscow cut off natural gas exports and the bloc in turn banned Russian coal imports, the authors explained. Meanwhile, weak nuclear and hydropower output led to a rise in coal and gas demand in early 2022. 

Nonetheless, the bloc also experienced dramatic reductions in fossil fuel use in both industry and buildings, according to the report. 

That reduction, the authors explained, was caused by the impact of high prices on demand, combined with increases in wind and solar power production.  

In the electricity sector, both coal and gas-fired power fell year-over-year in November, the report found. Coal’s share of the thermal power generation makeup did rise, as the fall in gas-fired generation was about four times as large as the drop in coal-fired production.

But both solar and wind output achieved new records in November, according to the report. 

“However, the main driver of the fall in emissions are reductions in electricity and gas consumption prompted by the high prices,” the authors stated. 

The resulting cost-saving conservation measures — such as lowering indoor temperatures — kept demand low, while relatively mild weather conditions did not have such a significant effect, the report found. 

As a colder month of December draws to a close, the authors observed that emissions in the first half of the months have remained well below 2021 levels.

“The sector continues to be plagued by the poor performance of nuclear and wind conditions were also very unfavorable, but reduced gas use outside the power sector has kept emissions falling overall,” the report concluded.

Tags European Union fossil fuels solar power

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