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Europe’s carbon emissions below lockdown levels amid energy crisis | World News

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Carbon emissions from European power plants and industry were even lower at the start of the year than at the height of the pandemic, as high energy prices and strong renewable energy production slashed demand for fossil fuels.


While part of the decline in emissions can be attributed to the increase in new renewable energy sources, another important factor is the sharp drop in demand from industries that can no longer afford to operate at normal levels. (document)



Emissions from power plants and industrial operations covered by the EU’s cap-and-trade system fell 13% in the first four months of this year, according to geographic analytics firm Kayrros SAS. The roughly 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide produced in that period was slightly lower than in early 2020, when pandemic restrictions took effect.

While part of the decline in emissions can be attributed to the increase in new renewable energy sources, another important factor is the sharp drop in demand from industries that can no longer afford to operate at normal levels. While gas prices were below last year’s impressive record, emissions fell below levels seen when much of Europe’s economies shut down to contain the coronavirus, suggesting the impact of the energy crisis is far from over.



“Industry is moving out or closing down,” said Andreas Gandolfo, an analyst at BloombergNEF. “Industry accounts for a large share of emissions and is moving away from Europe because of high energy prices.”

While benchmark European gas prices are about a third of what they were a year ago, when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent the market soaring, they are still about double their 2019 level. This proved to be too much for many European industries. Chemical makers reported a 15% drop in output in the first quarter compared with a year earlier, according to trade body VCI.

In response to the Ukrainian invasion, European leaders have vowed to reduce their reliance on Russian gas. In the short term, the government tries to cut demand. In the long run, they promise to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy to permanently replace fossil fuels.



READ MORE: Despite desperate energy needs, G20 countries avoid climate setbacks

Both goals have come to fruition in the EU’s power mix so far this year. Across the EU, electricity from fossil fuels is down almost 16% compared with a year ago, according to climate think tank Ember. These included a 17% decline in generation from coal-fired plants and a 15% drop in output from gas-fired plants.

Renewable energy has surged this year, largely driven by strong wind power. Overall, wind, solar and hydropower plants accounted for a higher share of the EU power mix than all fossil fuel power plants in the first four months.

Some countries are also generating record amounts of solar power, although the technology does better in summer when the sun is stronger and the days are longer. Ember found that Portugal generated more than half of its electricity from solar panels for the first time in April.



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