5 facts about Europe's carbon emissions
- 21 Nov 2013, 14:15
- Freya Roberts
2013's carbon dioxide emissions are set to
36 billion tonnes, scientists announced
earlier this week - that's a rise of around 2.1 per cent on last
year's levels. The assessment comes from academics at some of the
world's top climate research institutes
A big chunk of those emissions will have come
from Europe. The region is pretty developed and has a long history
of fossil fuel consumption. But it's currently undertaking a number
of wide-reaching energy policies which could see its carbon
footprint reduce over the coming years - renewables targets, an
emissions trading scheme, as well as national plans for
To get an insight into Europe's current
emissions, we've played around with the Global Carbon
Atlas - an online tool released alongside the new
carbon dioxide predictions for 2013. It's not real time data, but
looking back to 2012 and 2011 gives a good idea of how the world's
emissions break down. Here are five interesting facts the Atlas
reveals about Europe:
1. European countries are among the highest
emitters in the world
For a collection of small countries, Europe packs a significant
carbon punch. The region contained nine of the world's top 25
emitters in 2012. Germany had the 6th highest emissions. The UK
ranked 13th highest, closely followed by Italy in 16th and France
18th. Consumption of fossil fuels in these countries remains
2. Many european countries are responsible for
more carbon emissions than they 'produce'
Generally, governments measure territorial
emissions - the amount of carbon dioxide produced inside the
boundaries of a country by activities which consume fossil fuels.
But there's another way of looking at it - consumption emissions.
That's a measure of how much carbon is produced by the stuff a
country actually uses - inside and outside its borders.
In 2011, the UK's territorial emissions were
around 450 megatonnes of carbon dioxide, but its consumption
emissions were an estimated 632 megatonnes (one
megatonne is equivalent to one million tonnes). The
picture was the same for countries like Italy, France and Germany.
Across Europe as a whole, consumption emissions were estimated to
be about a billion tonnes higher than territorial emissions in
3. Asia and the US beat Europe in emissions terms
Grouped by region, Europe emerged as the third biggest polluter
in 2012. It produced nearly 6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, in
terms of territorial emissions. Asia, the highest overall emitter,
produced 16 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide - nearly three times
as much - while North America emitted just over 6 billion
Smaller amounts of the greenhouse gas were
emitted from the oil-rich Middle East (2 billion tonnes), South
America (1 billion tonnes) and Africa (1 billion
4. Your average American or Australian emits
much more than a European
Averaged over the 740 million or so population, Europe's carbon
dioxide emissions in 2012 equalled out at around eight tonnes per
person. That's almost 40 per cent lower than the per capita
emissions in North America (13 tonnes per person) and in the
Australian-encompassing-region of Oceania (14 tonnes per
Europe's emissions are still twice the size of Asia's, however,
at around four tonnes per person.
5. Europe produced the highest carbon
dioxide emissions from burning gas
Of the total 35.5 billion tonnes of carbon
dioxide emitted in 2012, 33 per cent of those emissions came from
burning gas, says the Global Carbon Project. As a region, Europe
was at the forefront of that charge, emitting nearly two billion
tonnes of carbon dioxide. That means despite the growth in US shale
gas, Europe's still using more gas - just.
Europe produced roughly the same emissions again
burning coal and oil, the Atlas reveals, but carbon emissions from
both were highest in Asia.
How does Europe compare?
By many different measures, Europe's carbon
emissions aren't the highest in the world. In terms of total
emissions, Asia and North America emit more. But per person, Europe
emits twice as much as Asia. On top of that, Europe has been
producing carbon emissions for a lot longer - and so is responsible
for a lot more of the total that's accumulated in the
It's not a very green picture either when you
consider that Germany, the UK, Italy and France all ranked in the
top 20 biggest emitters in 2012. If it was based on consumption
emissions, they'd have all been in the top 12.
It's an interesting snapshot of how global
emissions have evolved so far, though. A decade or two ago, the
comparison with Asia, a region just starting to rapidly consume
fossil fuels as it developed, would have been different. Just a few
years ago the picture would have been different in North America,
as it discovered and began to exploit shale gas. The picture may
look different again in the near future.