Well I must admit, I for one did not see this news coming, and it has come at quite the shock to me, and I would like to think much of the developed world and climate hawks all around. The EU is set to meet and surpass the greenhouse gas emission targets set out in the Kyoto Protocol way back in 1997, cutting overall amounts by at least 5% per country involved, which is a sizeable amount whichever way you cut it.
Considering many other developed nations have either long given up on reaching these goals, or have simply backed out in the interests of domestic markets (think Canada and their precious tar-sand resources), or never actually ratified the Protocol in the first place, the fact that the EU has achieved this is quite some show of progress in the right direction.
What surprised me even more so, and this is undoubtedly where my powerful cynicism comes into play, or what I like to think of as realistic cynicism at least, is that the United Kingdom is leading the pack in slashing GHG emissions in real terms (actual tonnes of emissions), cutting them by 6% in 2011, equivalent to roughly 36m tonnes of CO2. Compare this to 5% for France and just 2% for solar-rich Germany, and you see what all the fuss is about. Personally, and I don’t believe I was alone in this thought, I always mostly ignored the government’s claims of how well we were doing and how we would easily meet our targets and surpass them, and given recent developments in our energy policy, I would be mad to think of it as truth; but apparently I was wrong.
Now, there are multiple reasons as to why this sudden drop in emissions came to be, and when combined, they would seem to account for much of the cuts we are now seeing and inevitably will be boasting about on the global stage. Firstly, a milder year for weather all round depressed gas and electricity usage, and secondly, cleaner wind and solar energy has steadily been coming online since the mid-noughties, and even though there are relatively few numbers of MWs being produced via renewables, they obviously have a impact.
However, and possibly more importantly, a practically stagnant European economy drove down the use of any form of energy, be it fossil or renewable, in part forcing the decline in emissions, and in others the maddeningly new high bill costs supposedly ‘needed’ to keep the Big Six running our country’s supply of juice.