The EU’s greenhouse gas emissions in the last quarter of 2021 were higher than any quarter since late 2018, scrubbing out the apparent gains made during the pandemic.
Data released Monday by Eurostat showed that the EU released 1,041 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent pollution in the October-December period. That’s an 8 percent jump from the same quarter in 2020 and slightly higher than the fourth quarter of 2019, the last period that was unaffected by the pandemic-induced economic slump.
Eurostat said the economic recovery was the key driver of the increase. But several member countries — Estonia, Bulgaria, Sweden and Belgium — registered jumps in 2021 that were much bigger than the losses recorded due to the pandemic.
Despite the increase, Eurostat said the long-term trend was “a steady reduction.” The EU has committed to cut its emissions by 55 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and to net zero by 2050.
The data released on Monday raise questions about progress toward those goals during the pandemic. To reach the 2030 mark, the bloc needs to cut emissions steadily by a few percentage points per year, every year through the 2020s.
Adding to the complexity, the European Commission this week will announce a suite of proposals aimed at cutting dependence on Russian energy, including accelerating clean energy.
The Commission did not respond to a request for comment. After a meeting with Chinese officials on Monday, EU Green Deal chief Frans Timmermans tweeted: “The global energy situation only reinforces the need to decarbonize.”