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Pandemic effect fizzles out

The EU's greenhouse gas emissions are already almost back to pre-Corona pandemic levels. The hoped-for effect for a lasting reduction failed to materialize. Where is the EU heading?

No lesson learned: EU emissions rise steeply after the pandemic (Image: Pixabay)No lesson learned: EU emissions rise steeply after the pandemic (Image: Pixabay)

"EU economy greenhouse gases still below pre-COVID levels" reads the report from Eurostat, the European Union's statistics portal. The truth behind the numbers: Although EU greenhouse gas emissions in the first quarter of 2022, 1.029 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalents (CO2-eq), are not yet back to the level of 2019 (1.035 billion metric tons of CO2-eq), i.e. before the COVID pandemic, they are already higher again than in 2020 and 2021, when partial lockdowns tied up the economy.

So Europe is heading back to the same levels as before COVID. And the possible effects of the Ukraine war have not even been taken into account yet, but they are very likely. The switch to coal and oil alone is likely to drive up emissions in individual countries even further. The EU has agreed on the goal of reducing climate-damaging gases by 55 percent by 2030 and becoming climate-neutral by 2050 - but the Fit for 55 package was passed before the war and it is currently unclear whether the goals can be achieved anymore.

The highest increases were noticed in Bulgaria (38 percent), Malta (21 percent) and Ireland (20 percent); the only exceptions that stand out are the Netherlands, with a 9 percent decrease, and Finland (-1 percent).

With two exceptions, the emissions of the EU member states are increasing and approaching the pre-pandemic figures (data source: env_ac_aigg_q, image: Eurostat)

In Austria, the increase was 4.8 percent (or 3.5 million CO2-eq) higher than in 2020, prompting Climate Protection Minister Leonore Gewessler to say, "We must continue to massively increase our efforts. Even though CO2 emissions in 2021 have increased again compared to the exceptional year 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, we have achieved a decrease compared to the pre-pandemic period. We have already put many measures in place, but it is absolutely clear that more needs to come for a good and climate-friendly future. Because emissions have to go down year by year."

Efforts are also being made in Germany to achieve this effect, as Climate State Secretary Patrick Graichen emphasized: "The rise in greenhouse gas emissions has unfortunately become apparent. The German government will now swiftly counteract this with an immediate climate protection program. The key is a much faster pace in the expansion of renewable energies. We must manage to install three times as much capacity as before in order to increase the share of renewables in electricity generation to 80 percent by 2030."

Energiesparen = saving energy is the prerogative which also means saving on emissions (Image: Pixabay)

This will require an unprecedented effort, as UBA President Dirk Messner makes clear: "To achieve the German government's goals by 2030, six percent of emissions must now be reduced each year. Since 2010, the average has not even been two percent."

Work is currently underway everywhere on an immediate climate protection program, if only to further reduce dependence on Russia. But it is also clear that everyone must help: "To achieve this, Germany now needs a joint energy effort. We have to put all our efforts into making ourselves independent of Russian energy and protecting our climate," Messner said.

To put it in a way that everyone understands: Let's go!

Katrin Radtke
EU, Europe, CO2, emissions, growth, Eurostat, Germany, Austria, effort, climate protection, war, Ukraine, saving energy

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