Europe’s dirty secret: Inside struggle the EU faces when it comes to cutting emissions

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With the UN Cop26 Climate Change conference well underway, the EU will be keen to promote itself as a world leader on reducing climate change. The EU may have slashed its emissions since 1990, but its insatiable appetite for imported products with whopping carbon footprints means it’s effectively pushing emissions production onto other countries. explores just how green the EU truly is.

Ahead of Cop26, the EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “We have already reduced our emissions by more than 31 percent compared to 1990 while growing our economy by 60 percent.

“I think this is an encouraging message that shows you can cut emissions and prosper.”

Despite their ambitious climate pledges and the recent reduction in their domestic emission production, the EU has been creating emissions due to their demand for products with a high carbon footprint.

The Bloc can’t get enough of products such as aluminium, soy, palm oil and polluting chemicals.

These carry a hefty carbon price tag, which is usually attributed to the countries where these products are produced, even though they are shipped to EU consumers.

This effectively means the EU is outsourcing some of its emissions to China, Brazil and other countries where they import vast amounts of these products from.

How big are the EU’s emissions?

The EU produced around 2.54 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 according to Statista.

Although this is a staggering amount, it marks a reduction of 13 percent when compared to 2019 levels.

The biggest emitter of CO2 in the EU is Germany by a long way.

Germany creates much more emissions than other big emitters in the EU, such as France, Italy and Poland.

This is primarily because Germany is reliant on coal for most of its energy.

Coal is the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, it emits approximately 50 percent more CO2 than the next biggest polluter, natural gas.

MP John Redwood has blasted Germany for not doing enough to curb its emissions.

Ahead of Cop26, he told the BBC: “It’s only going to work [the conference] if Germany, which puts out twice as much as we do, starts to take the issue seriously and closes down its coal power stations.”

But German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said her country faces far greater challenges when it comes to reducing its emissions, because “Germany is a strong industrial nation.”

She told the BBC: “We produce and export large numbers of goods that involve energy-intensive manufacturing processes.

“This makes the transition to a climate-neutral economy even more of a challenge.”

Despite Ms Von der Leyen’s confidence that the EU “can cut emissions and prosper,” it seems they have a long way to go to curb their emissions.

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