In 2021, as Covid-19 restrictions were lifted and economic activity began to recover, Belgium returned to its past polluting habits. According to statistics from Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels in Belgium increased by 4.1% compared to the year prior.
In total, 25 out of the 27 member countries of the European Union increased their CO2 emissions from energy use last year. On average, the EU increased its CO2 emissions from fossil fuels by 6.3%. Only Finland (-1.5%) and Portugal (-5.5%) achieved emissions reductions.
“CO2 emissions from energy use are a major contributor to global warming and account for some 75% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions in the EU,” the publication warns.
Last year, some of the worst offenders for CO2 emissions from burning fuels included Bulgaria (+18%), Estonia (+13.1%), Slovakia (+11.4%) and Italy (+10.6%).
Much of the EU’s energy consumption from fossil fuels goes towards generating electricity. The largest single source of energy across the EU is the combustion of fuels, which produced around 40% of total energy as of December 2021.
- EU Green Deal: MEPs approve three key climate laws after delay
- Majority of EU household energy comes from natural gas
Total EU greenhouse gas emissions have already rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. In the fourth quarter of 2021, greenhouse gas emissions totalled 1,041 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalents (MMTCDE), up 8% from the year before. Household energy consumption is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, according to Eurostat.
“In 2021, the increase in CO2 emissions was mainly due to the rising use of solid fossil fuels (which contributed to over 50% of the increase,” Eurostat notes.
Due to the high price of gas in 2021, many electricity producers used coal and other dirty fuels to keep up with demand for electricity. This year, Germany restarted its coal-powered plants to keep up with rising demand and high natural gas prices.
“Liquid fossil fuels were responsible for over 29% of the increase, whereas 21% can be attributed to natural gas. The reduced use of peat slightly alleviated the increase in CO2 emissions,” the report concluded.