Climate: How four European countries are making progress in reducing their emissions

The European Commission is preparing to propose an interim target to reduce greenhouse gases by 2040. Estimated at the end of December 27 Member States will have difficulty meeting the -55% target set for 2030.

If twenty-seven countries collectively cut emissions by 30% between 1990 and 2021, their national plans show that they will only reach 51% by 2030, particularly in states that are fishing for carbon sinks, renewable energies and energy efficiency. Zoom in Some important countries.

· France did not meet the target

France has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 25% over 32 years (between 1990 and 2022, 408 million tons of CO equivalent).2), especially thanks to the evolution of its energy mix and the efforts of the industry. It now needs to double the pace to meet its 2030 targets, and achieve a reduction of around 5% per year. The government is proud of the 4.6% decline achieved in the first nine months of 2023, but this remains cyclical associated with the energy crisis and mild winters.

The broad plan developed by the Secretariat for Environmental Planning (SGPE) provides a full range of measures for 2030, some of which will lead to structural changes in society (greening of the automobile fleet, renovation of buildings but less used cars or change in agricultural practices).

However, the project did not fully meet the target (-52% instead of -55%) due to the poor condition of forests or lack of carbon sinks linked to available biomass. Additionally, it remains fragile. The administration's backtracking on some measures that faced farmers' ire, such as the levy on non-road diesel, shows that the implementation phase is too difficult.

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· In Germany, great ambitions were thwarted

Germany is one of the largest European countries to reduce its emissions (-46% between 1990 and 2023), although it remains one of the largest emitters in the EU (673 million tons of CO2 equivalent last year). Its efforts to reduce dependence on fossil fuels (gas and coal) are beginning to bear fruit: renewable energies, wind and solar energy, accounted for more than half of the country's electricity consumption last year.

Through a federal law adopted in 2021, the country aims to reduce its emissions by 65% ​​between 1990 and 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2045. So has the government of Olaf Scholes, in alliance with the Verts. Commitment to achieve more than 80% of its electricity mix using renewable energies by 2030.

But immediately announced measures, a tax on gas or a plan to renew heating systems, provoked public opinion fueled by the far right. As a result, much to the chagrin of the Greens, the government had to back away from reforms that these people did not want.

· In Sweden, fear of a giant leap backwards

In ranking the best students on climate matters, Sweden has so far been a role model. Very early on, the country implemented public policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Starting with the carbon tax that emerged as part of a broader tax reform in the Kingdom of Sweden in the early 1990s. In 2018, the country enacted a climate framework that sets a target of carbon neutrality by 2045. Taking the lead so early has yielded tangible results: emissions fell by 73% between 1990 and 2021 – no country in the Union has done better over this period – and total greenhouse gas emissions reached a level of just 7 million tonnes of CO equivalent.2 In 2021. Sweden can thus boast the lowest carbon footprint per capita in Europe.

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This building, despite its antiquity, is nevertheless fragile. Since the right and extreme right came to power in 2022, priorities have changed and a whole range of pro-environmental measures have been abandoned: the end of bonuses for carpooling and the use of public transport, the end of subsidies for offshore wind power, the elimination of tax incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles, the reduction of the share of biofuels… as a result , Sweden should be one of the few countries in the OECD to increase greenhouse gas emissions by 2023. From being a model student, Sweden is radically changing its profile within climate Europe.

· In Spain, a mixed record

Those who see the glass as half full will say that Spain is on the right track. In fact, by 2023, the country has surpassed the benchmark of 50% renewables in its national energy production reaching nearly 135,000 GW/h. A success Spain owes to its ambitious policy of supporting the development of wind and solar power, particularly in the north and center of the country. This share should rise to 74% by 2030.

The other side of the coin is less rosy: Spain is one of the rare countries where greenhouse gas emissions start to increase again from 2021. In 2022, the increase was more than 3% equivalent to 304 million tons of CO.2. And the overall drop in emissions since 1990 is only 2%! So Spain turned to ecological change too late. A note of hope: According to provisional estimates from the Climate Change Observatory in Spain, emissions will decrease by 7.5% in 2023 compared to 2022, thanks to renewables.

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