Latest preliminary estimates show continued fall in emissions across the EU, but spark concern about slow progress on transport and energy.
Greenhouse gas emissions fell by two per cent across the EU in 2018 according to the latest official preliminary estimates, but the relatively slow progress in renewable energy deployment and the decarbonisation of the transport sector continue to cause concern for the EU's environmental agency.
The latest emissions trends and projections released by the European Environment Agency (EEA) yesterday indicate the EU achieved a two per cent cut in greenhouse gases last year, bringing total reductions since 1990 to 23.2 per cent.
That puts the EU firmly on track to exceed its 2020 target to cut emissions by 20 per cent compared to 1990 levels. But the EEA warned significantly more progress was needed to achieve the bloc's 2030 goal of a 40 per cent reduction, for which many member states remain off track.
At present only Greece, Portugal, and Sweden are expected to reach their individual 2030 climate targets, according to their 2019 reports to the EEA.
The agency also warned slow progress on energy efficiency, decarbonising transport fuels, and upping the bloc's share of renewable energy were also combining to put the 2030 target at risk.
Wendel Trio, director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe - a coalition of green groups across Europe - said the latest data showed a much faster energy transition was needed across the bloc.
"It is good that finally greenhouse gas emissions are going down again, but the EEA's report clearly shows that more can be done if Member States pick up the pace on further developing renewable energy and energy savings," he said. "In order to achieve ambitious greenhouse gas emission cuts by 2030, EU countries' energy and climate plans must aim at accelerating the pace of the clean energy transition and phasing out the use of fossil fuels. This is the only way for them to account to the millions of citizens who are demanding concrete and rapid action to prevent the worsening of climate change."
While the EU's 2020 target to increase the share of renewables - heat and electricity - in final energy consumption by 20 per cent by 2020 is "within reach", renewables share is not increasing fast enough to meet longer term targets, the EEA said.
The Agency's report estimates renewables achieved an 18 per cent share of final energy demand across the EU in 2018, but warned that at an average growth rate of 0.7 per cent a year, the transition towards renewable energy sources is not moving quickly enough to ensure the 2030 target of a 32 per cent share is met.
Moreover, the EEA report highlights a "worrying trend" on energy efficiency, with final energy consumption rising across the EU by 0.1 per cent - the fourth consecutive year it has increased. The rise is largely attributed to growing energy demand from buildings.
The EU has a target to reduce energy demand by 32.5 per cent by 2030 from 1990, a goal which based on current trends "appears increasingly difficult" to meet, the EEA pointed out.
On road transport, meanwhile, the latest data shows the EU cut the emissions intensity of fuels by 3.4 per cent between 2010 and 2017, but again the rate of reduction remains too slow to meet the 2030 target of a six per cent cut.
Elsewhere the EEA report also reveals that total emissions from industry trading carbon credits through the EU's emissions trading system (ETS) declined by 4.1 per cent between 2017 and 2018, with the downward trend driven largely by the reduced use of coal power.
In contrast, emissions from airlines continued to increase in 2018, rising by four per cent due to growing demand for flights, the EEA said.