The EU’s CO2 emissions from fossil fuels (including power generation, industry and transport) dropped 8% in 2023 year-on-year, reaching levels last seen in the early 1960s, reveals an analysis by CREA. More than half of that decline came from an impressive 25% year-on-year reduction in CO2 emissions from power generation. The cleaner electricity mix is thanks to the continuous rise of wind and solar as well as a rebound in hydropower and nuclear. The analysis breaks down the contributions of oil, gas and coal, industry and transport, as well as the decrease in total electricity demand and favourable weather conditions. CREA is keen to emphasise that further investments in renewable energy infrastructure and technologies will be needed to help maintain this momentum.
- The EU’s CO2 emissions from fossil fuels saw a year-on-year drop of 8% in 2023, reaching levels unseen since the early 1960s. This is the second steepest decline observed since the emissions drop in 2020 which was heavily influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- More than half of the decline (56%) stems from a cleaner electricity mix, with the continuous rise of wind and solar capacity as well as a rebound in hydropower and nuclear availability.
- The EU achieved a notable 25% year-on-year reduction in CO2 emissions from power generation, while other sectors declined by 4%.
- EU’s CO2 emissions from coal have halved since 2015, and saw a year-on-year decrease of 25%. Gas-related emissions declined by 11%, and oil emissions by 2%, compared to the previous year.
Cleaner power generation accounts for over half of the 8% decline in CO2 emissions
CREA’s early estimates show an 8% year-on-year decline in the EU’s CO2 emissions from fossil fuels in 2023 — the second most significant drop after 2020.
More than half of this reduction (56%) can be attributed to cleaner electricity production, with the continuous growth of solar & wind as well as a rebound in hydropower and nuclear availability (see Appendix).
A decrease in electricity demand contributed 8%, while reductions in other sectors, primarily industry and transport, accounted for the remaining 36%. Weather conditions in 2023 were even more favourable than in 2022 and explained 19% of the reduction in electricity demand.
Coal emissions fell by 25% while oil saw a less significant reduction of under 2%
Coal consumption — which had bounced back in 2021 and 2022 — has now dipped below pre-pandemic levels. Emissions from coal have declined 25% compared to the previous year and nearly halved since 2015 (-48%).
Fossil gas also saw a significant decline with estimated emissions falling by approximately 11%. This decrease in fossil gas and coal consumption has largely been enabled by the expansion of solar and wind energy, the rebound of hydropower availability and a modest increase in nuclear energy, as well as the reduction in electricity demand.
Emissions from oil, which mainly come from transportation and industry and therefore cannot be displaced by growing renewable energy alone, have declined by less than 2%.
Lowest levels in 60 years
Using our CO2 tracker to project historical emission datasets, CREA analysis finds that EU CO2 emissions from fossil fuels have reached their lowest point in 60 years — comparable to levels last seen in the early 1960s.
Further investments in renewable energy infrastructure and technologies, encompassing wind, solar, hydropower, and other clean energy sources, will help achieve a continued reduction in CO2 emissions.
Reductions in fossil fuel consumption made possible through investments in renewable energy will lower the EU’s reliance on petrostates such as Russia whose earnings from the export of fossil fuels are used to wage the war on Ukraine.
Throughout this briefing, CO2 emissions refer to CO2 emissions from fossil fuels only and from the power generation, industry and transport sectors. Agriculture and Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) are not included, nor are methane emissions.
We use ‘fossil gas’ throughout this briefing to refer to fossil methane, i.e. natural gas of fossil origin.
This analysis is published with permission from the Centre for Research in Energy and Clean Air (CREA)