Despite concerns about the impact of the current energy crisis, global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels increased almost by 1.0% in 2022. The increase was smaller than expected due to the transition to renewable energy sources. But according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), emissions have to come down in order to combat global warming.

The EU aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% compared to 1990 levels by 2030. According to the latest figures, in the third quarter of 2022 total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU amounted to 854 million tonnes (from 836 million in the corresponding quarter of 2021). This increase (+2.0%) is largely related to the recovery of economic activity (GDP growth +2.6%) after the pandemic. Compared to 2019, when greenhouse gas emissions had reached 889 million tonnes in the EU as a whole, there was a decrease of 4.0%.

The performance of Member States in reducing greenhouse gas emissions varied significantly, and the differences could not always be attributed to the pace of economic recovery. For example, while the Netherlands and Estonia recorded similar performances in GDP growth over three years (5.7% and 5.9% respectively), the former recorded the largest reduction in emissions in the EU (-15.7%) while in the second these emissions increased significantly (+7.0%). Similarly, while in Denmark GDP grew by 6.4% in the period 2019-2022 (third quarter) greenhouse gas emissions fell by 14.8%. On the contrary, in Bulgaria, where GDP growth was almost the same (+7.0%), emissions also increased (+6.2%). A similar difference is observed in the performances of Slovenia and Lithuania, and so on.

Greece belongs to the category of Member States that recorded a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions (-6.9% in the third quarter of 2022 compared to the corresponding quarter of 2019), although during the same period the GDP increased (+4.7%).

On April 18, the European Parliament approved deals on several key issues: the adoption of new carbon leakage instrument to protect EU industry, the inclusion for the first time of emissions from the maritime sector in the Emissions Trading System (ETS), the phasing out of free allowances to the industry and to the aviation sector in the ETS (2026), and the creation of new separate ETS for fuel for road transport and buildings that will put a price on emissions from these sectors (2027).

This final measure is highly controversial as it disproportionately burdens vulnerable households. Many MEPs (even Greens) voted against the plan, warning it would spark a backlash. To ease the pressure on households, the European Parliament voted to set up the Social Climate Fund (with €86 billion in funding mainly coming from the auctioning ETS allowances) in order to support vulnerable groups affected especially from energy poverty. The above measures are part of the “Fit for 55 in 2030 package” and hopefully they will contribute significantly to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.