EU claims report shows that it is possible to break the link between economic growth and GHG emissions

The European Environment Agency has just published its 1990 – 2012 greenhouse gas emissions inventory. The data show that the region has done better than projected for this period and is projected to ‘over-achieve’ its 2020 targets.

Between 1990 and 2012, the EU economy grew by 45% (in GDP) while GHG emissions were reduced by 19%.  Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the EEA, has stated that “The EU figures actually show that it is possible to break the link between economic growth and GHG emissions.”

Between 2008 and 2012, the EU economy contracted by 1.4%, but GHG emissions were reduced by 9.2%. Bruyninckx reports that economic recession can explain only between 30 and 50% of the GHG reductions in this period and that the EU has achieved a structural improvement of the EU economy towards a production system generating lower emissions per output and an increasing share of renewable energy in the energy mix.

It is interesting to study the sources of GHG emission reductions in the EU. Taking the original 15 EU countries, major changes in emissions over the period 1990-2012 in millions of tonnes CO2e are reported as:

  • Road transportation                                       + 72
  • Consumption of halocarbons                           + 71
  • Enteric fermentation (methane from animals)    – 21
  • Cement production                                          – 23
  • Production of halocarbons                                – 27
  • Nitric acid production                                        – 30
  • Agricultural soils                                               – 41
  • Fugitive emissions from fuels                             – 49
  • Iron and steel production                                   – 54
  • Manufacture of solid fuels                                  – 58
  • Adipic acid (raw material for nylon) production     – 58
  • Public electricity and heat production                   – 61
  • Solid waste disposal on land                               – 66
  • Households and services                                    – 78
  • Manufacturing industries (excl. iron and steel)      – 151

Of particular note, in GallonDaily’s opinion:

  • transportation emissions are up significantly, even though most other sectors are down
  • landfill emissions are down
  • household emissions are down
  • manufacturing emissions are down

The EEA reports that key factors in reducing GHG emissions are

  • lower final energy intensity (less final energy per GDP, e.g. less energy used by end users);
  • lower carbon intensity of fossil fuels (less CO2 per primary energy from fossil fuels, e.g. less carbon-intensive fuels);
  • improved energy-transformation efficiency (less primary energy per final energy, e.g. more efficient electricity production); and
  • higher non-carbon fuels effect (less fossil fuels in total primary energy, e.g. more use of renewables). The latter has been accounted for by a larger share of renewable energy sources in the fuel mix, and much less so by nuclear which has been declining since 2006.

Over the same period between 1990 and 2012 the EU population increased by 31 million and net GDP per capita increased by 36%.


The full report, with much more detail, is available at The Executive Director’s commentary is at

A report Why did GHG emissions decrease in the EU between 1990 and 2012? is available at

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