EU ETS emissions fall by more than 8pc in 2019

  • Market: Emissions
  • 09/04/20

Emissions from sectors covered by the EU's emissions trading system (ETS) fell by more than 8pc on the year in 2019, mainly driven by a further steep drop in power sector lignite and coal burn.

The fall is the sharpest annual drop since the 11pc recorded in 2009, when industrial activity was held down by the effects of the previous year's financial crash.

Total emissions from sectors covered by the EU ETS last year look set to come in at around 1.605bn t of CO2 equivalent (CO2e), according to data from the EU Commission's transaction log. The commission delayed publishing its annual aggregation of verified emissions to the middle of this month, citing delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. But some 96pc of installations, with emissions totalling 1.565bn t CO2e, had still been able to submit their data to the transaction log by 7 April.

Where installations are still participating in the EU ETS but are yet to file, their 2018 verified emissions are carried over to 2019 to enable the total estimates reported here.

Emissions from stationary installations — excluding aviation — looked set to fall by nearly 9pc, or 149mn t CO2e, to 1.53bn t CO2e. The power sector was responsible for almost all of that reduction, seeing emissions fall by 12pc or 139mn t CO2e.

Those falls in power sector emissions were in turn concentrated in countries where lignite and coal-fired power has previously dominated. The sharp rises in ETS allowance prices, to nearly €30/t CO2e at one point last year, helped encourage large-scale switching from coal to gas for generation, while mild and windy weather conditions limited the call on lignite units. The resulting year-on-year falls of as much as 30pc in emissions from Germany's lignite-fired plants contributed to an overall reduction in the country's power sector emissions of around 18pc — or some 54mn t CO2e.

Those falls will have continued, and even accelerated, into 2020, with the coronavirus pandemic suppressing power demand — generation from coal and lignite in Germany have in recent weeks fallen below even last summer's levels.

Further small falls in emissions elsewhere in German industry took the country's overall reduction in stationary ETS emissions to some 14pc — a significantly bigger drop even than in 2009.

Spain recorded a fall in power sector emissions of more than 20pc, and Poland 9pc — each representing a drop of 15mn t CO2e. And the UK's emissions from the sector were down by 10pc, or nearly 10mn t CO2e.

Other industries saw emissions levels change much less dramatically and had relatively little impact on the overall figures.

Steel plants registered a small drop — of a little more than 1pc — in emissions, to around 104mn t CO2e. Of the largest emitters, Germany and Italy recorded falls of around 6pc and 3pc respectively, and Austria an increase of more than 8pc.

Individual steel installations tended to move up the rankings of the EU's largest emitters, as power plants dropped below them. Steel facilities made up 10 of the top 30 emitters in 2019, according to the available transaction log data, up from just five in 2018. Short-haul airline Ryanair held on to its position at number nine in the rankings.

Emissions from oil refining looked set to drop by around 2pc, to about 122mn t CO2e, with falls recorded in all of the major oil refining centres with the exception of the Netherlands, where verified emissions were up by 8pc to 11mn t CO2e.

EU ETS stationary emissions t CO2e

Total emissions by activity t CO2e

German emissions by activity t CO2e

Average German power sector lignite, coal burn GW

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