Substantial drop in emissions in 2020, but not thanks to structural change

The blast furnaces of Tata Steel.Image ANP

The achievement of the target is partly a fluke. The pandemic reduced road traffic, resulting in 15 percent less emissions than in 2019. In addition, it was a warm year, which meant less natural gas was needed for heating. The only sector where structural emission reductions took place is the energy sector. As of 2015, emissions here have fallen by 39 percent, largely due to the closure of coal-fired power plants. Emissions from coal-fired power plants have been reduced by 80 percent in five years. The government has now set new legal targets: emissions must be 49 percent lower by 2030.

Fewer emissions lead to better air quality

In addition to a reduction in greenhouse gases, fewer air polluting substances such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen and particulate matter will be emitted in 2020. The air quality has improved as a result, RIVM writes. The emission of ammonia has increased slightly, due to a small increase in the number of animals and an increase in the amount of nitrogen in cow manure.

Since 2020, all EU countries have been subject to reduction targets for air pollutants. Emissions must be reduced compared to 2005. So far, these targets have been achieved every year.

High temperatures in 2020, also much warmer than average in 2022

Due to the warm weather, 1.5 megatons less CO2 was emitted in 2020 due to the combustion of natural gas. This is equivalent to 6 percent of total emissions from households and the service sector in 2019. In 2020, the average temperature in De Bilt was 11.7 degrees.

It was especially warm in the autumn and winter months: the average temperature was barely below the average from 1991 to 2020. There was exactly one week in which the mercury also fell below freezing during the day – the KNMI’s definition of cold weather.

With the exception of a few days in mid-January, 2022 has also been a warm year so far. Up to and including February 8, the average temperature was 5.2 degrees: colder than the 6.5 degrees measured during the same time in 2020, but a lot warmer than the average 3.6 degrees from 1991 to 2020.

With the collaboration of Semina Ajrović

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