EU Emissions Fall Amid Energy Crunch, but Gas Buildout Looms

Trams and cyclists in Ghent, Belgium.

Trams and cyclists in Ghent, Belgium. bvi4092 via Flickr

European emissions of carbon dioxide from energy use over the past three months are down 5 percent from the previous year as the energy crisis drives up the price of fossil fuels. But Europe’s efforts to shore up supplies of natural gas could lock in a new source of emissions, a new analysis finds.

The drop in EU emissions follows a 16-month surge that began as the coronavirus pandemic started to ebb, according to an analysis of fossil fuel consumption from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shrinking supplies of fossil fuels, prices have shot up, spurring consumers to reduce consumption of electricity, gas, and oil.

In response to the pandemic and the energy crunch, 19 European countries have ramped up plans to phase out fossil fuels. Europe is now on track to add 45 percent more solar capacity than it did last year. Heat pump sales are projected to rise 30 percent, and EV sales are expected to grow by 7 percent.

In tandem with its clean energy buildout, EU countries have announced 26 new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals as part of an effort to buoy supplies of gas. But these terminals will do little to ameliorate gas shortages in the short term and threaten to undermine international climate goals over the long term, according to a new analysis from Climate Action Tracker.

“Large increases in LNG import capacity are projected for Europe and key countries such as Germany and Italy that appear to far exceed that needed to replace Russian gas in the short run,” the analysis said. “The short-term energy crunch Europe faces — which cannot be mitigated with additional import infrastructure due to construction lead times — can be alleviated through aggressive demand-side action.”


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