EU 2023 Figures show Mining has Stalled on GHG Emissions

The International Energy Agency estimates an additional 158,000 tonnes of coal mine methane was released over and above the reported EU figure.
European Union figures from Eurostat show that – although EU GHG emissions fell in 2023 – mining made no progress, with coal mining the worst culprit

Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from mining across the European Union region did not decrease in 2023, the latest EU statistics show.

The numbers come from Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, that publishes Europe-wide statistics and indicators that enable comparisons between countries and regions.

In total across 2023, EU countries churned out 3.4bn tons of greenhouse gas emissions, last year, 5.1% less than in 2022, Reuters analysis of Eurostat’s data shows.

The fall continues a trend of declining emissions in Europe, but the region remains the world's fastest-warming continent, with climate change creating more extreme weather including floods, droughts, wildfires and fatal heatwaves.

Having set legally-binding targets to cut net greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels), the 27-country EU is now struggling to meet them.

Emissions are falling fastest (by 18%) in the power generation sector, which is on target to meet EU climate goals. This is thanks to the shift to renewable energy sources. 

But other sectors are lagging. Emissions from mining and construction barely moved in 2023.

Eurostat figures for 2023 show that the mining and quarrying sector employed 378 000 people in the EU, and that it generated €101.9bn of net turnover.

Coal worse EU greenhouse gas offender

Coal is the worst-offending EU mined mineral.

According to the most recent figures available from Ember – the independent energy think tank whose aim is to accelerate the clean energy transition – EU coal mines emitted 908,000 tonnes of methane in 2021, much more than the EU’s combined figures for oil and gas emissions. 

This is equivalent to 75 million tonnes of CO2, or the same as the annual CO2 emissions of 43 million cars – around a sixth of EU cars, says Ember.

The figure today will be much higher than this, because 2021 was in the middle of the pandemic, and coal output across the EU was stymied by a succession of lockdowns. 

Even more worryingly, these reported coal-mining emissions are almost certainly underestimated, says the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA estimates that an additional 158,000 tonnes of coal mine methane was released over and above the reported figure, meaning EU coal mine methane emissions could be up to 24% higher than officially reported. 

A large part of these missing methane emissions, says the IEA, are attributed to Poland, which continues to mine some of the world’s gassiest coal. Methane emissions from a number of these mines are large enough to be regularly seen from space.

In 2021, Poland reported 562,000 tonnes of methane emissions from coal in 2021, representing 62% of the EU’s reported coal mine methane emissions. 

This is equivalent to 46mn tonnes of CO2, more than the annual CO2 emissions from all of Poland’s cars.

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