The pandemic and lockdown made 2020 an exceptional year, leading to a substantial drop in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These have, unsurprisingly, risen again in 2021.
8.08m tonnes ofCO2 were emitted in 2021, compared with 7.7m the previous year, according to the government's 2021 “Climate and Energy” report, presented this Friday by environment minister Joëlle Welfring (déi Gréng) and energy minister Claude Turmes (déi Gréng).
This year-on-year increase should not, however, detract from the fact that Luxembourg has succeeded in achieving the emission targets it set for 2021 under the National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP ) – a maximum of 8.2m tonnes of CO2 - and which should lead to a 55% reduction in the country’s GHG emissions in 2030 compared to 2005. "We have reached our global objective and this is a challenge in a country with a dynamic economy and demography,” Turmes said. In 2021, the country's emissions fell by 20% compared to 2005.
Transport makes its transition
However, this success must be put into perspective. In order to reduce its carbon footprint, the government has set targets for each sector - industry, transport, construction, waste and agriculture - by setting emission allowances that get lower each year. And success is very uneven across these sectors.
It is the transport sector alone - by far the country's largest CO2 emitter, accounting for 61.1% of total emissions - that is driving the overall balance down. While transport emissions have increased slightly since 2020 (4.94m tonnes in 2021 compared to 4.67m tonnes in 2020), they are 6.3% below the sector's allowable allocation for 2021 (i.e., 5.28m tonnes).
Industry and construction lag behind
The agriculture and waste sectors also record positive progress, but only by a small margin (0.7% and 2.1% below allowable allocations respectively). And their carbon footprints are relatively small overall (making up 2.3% and 9.3% of the country's footprint).
The other two remaining sectors - industry and construction - are problematic. They far exceed the targets set (+21.1% for industry and +10.4% for construction), with emissions rising. The energy minister is clear. "We have two sectors in which we need to improve: one is small and medium-sized businesses and small industrialists, the other is energy renovation," he admits.
Large industry not accounted for
For industry, it is important to point out that if large industrial companies - such as ArcelorMittal, Dupont de Nemours or Goodyear - are not mentioned, this is not because they are particularly exemplary. Their emissions are not counted at the national level, but rather at the European level. They are therefore excluded from this assessment. "At their level, they are making good efforts,” Turmes said.
For smaller companies, the minister promises "additional measures.” "We already decided, during the tripartite meeting, on tax reduction measures for companies that invest in the energy transition. Then there is a range of new instruments to help manufacturers invest more in renewable energy and energy efficiency," he said. In the weeks to come, a roadmap for the decarbonisation of the industrial sector and a climate pact for SMEs, similar to the climate pact set up for municipalities, will be presented.
Update of the NECP
The building sector is the second weak point in this assessment, a shortcoming that can be explained by the very difficult "challenge of renovating existing buildings,” admit the ministries concerned. But Turmes remains optimistic and promises a real "game changer" at the beginning of next year: "From 1 January 2023, it will no longer be permitted to use fossil fuels in new buildings," he explains, adding that this is "an important deal in a country that builds a lot of new buildings. Luxembourg will be "the first country to require zero fossil fuels in new buildings" and will have "the strictest standard in Europe".
For the years to come, the energy minister is also betting on the "accelerating" effect of the energy crisis. "The reduction in energy consumption will help us with emissions in 2022 and 2023," he hopes. The forthcoming update of the integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), in collaboration with external bodies such as the Klima-Biergerrot, the Climate Policy Observatory and the Climate Action Platform, will also be important. A draft will be drawn up in the first half of 2023 and will be updated by 30 June 2024.
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.