BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe may defy predictions of a strong surge in greenhouse gas output as European Union industries rev up again after a fall in production during the recession, a top EU climate official said on Wednesday.
Emissions in the EU’s 27 member countries fell 6.9 percent between 2008 and 2009, largely due to the economic slowdown, says the European Environment Agency (EEA), the EU’s top body for environment monitoring and research.
“I don’t think we’ll see a massive rebound after the recession -- a lot of substitution away from fossils fuels will have occurred,” EEA director Jacqueline McGlade told the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit.
Emissions in the EU’s 27 member countries last year had fallen to about 17.3 percent below 1990 levels, according to the EEA.
McGlade spoke ahead of the release on November 30 of the EEA’s five-yearly report, “The State and Outlook of Europe 2010,” which will highlight Europe’s vulnerability to water shortages, damaging soil and hampering food production.
“The cost of energy and power is driving people to rethink their business models with regard to access to water and access to energy,” she said. “The remaining issue is transport, but I believe that will be tackled head-on now.”
Despite those sustained emissions cuts, Europe should still be on guard against profound climate impacts in the coming decades.
“In the Arctic, we’re potentially predicting a 6-12 degree increase in temperatures by the end of this century,” she said. “And the Arctic exerts a huge influence on Europe -- the position of the Jet Stream, the (Atlantic) Gulf Stream and the patterns of precipitation.”
She cited problems already facing Sami reindeer herders in the Nordics, whose animals have recently struggled to break through snow during the winter to forage for food because it has been hardened by repeated freezing and thawing.
“Some very striking stories are already happening in the far north,” she said. “In the south, it is certain we’ll have droughts and forest fires. It is incredibly important that countries around the Mediterranean prepare,” she added.
“It is certain these changes will happen, and they now need to be managed. Investment on a very large scale will be needed.”
In central Europe, the problems will be difficult to manage as they will largely stem from one-off extreme weather events.
“It’s not about taking a lot of canned solutions off the shelf and piecing them together -- it’s about looking carefully at what the local conditions really are,” she said.
Figures released on Wednesday showed that industrial output in the 16 EU countries using the euro rose 7.9 percent in August compared to a year ago as manufacturing activity continued to recover, although economists said the outlook remained tough.
Editing by Rex Merrifield and Elizabeth Fullerton