Cyprus had the biggest increase in greenhouse gas emissions in the last 30 years and is unable to meet its 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction target, according to the European Commission.
According to the European Commission’s review of the first semester of 2020, the highest increase in greenhouse emissions per capita from 1990 to 2017 puts Cyprus at a 56 per cent increase, followed by Portugal and Spain with 23 and 22 per cent.
Cyprus is also among the EU member states with the highest greenhouse gas emissions per person in EU at 11.6 tonnes of CO₂ equivalent per capita in 2017. The EU average is 8.8 tonnes per person.
The commission, in its report released on Wednesday, said Cyprus has great potential in renewable sources of energy, especially solar energy but the government lacks the appropriate infrastructures to take advantage of it. As a result, the economy relies heavily on fossil fuels, thus compromising climate neutrality and sustainable growth.
The commission reported on Wednesday the island will be unable to meet its 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction target by 9 percentage points and the 2030 target is estimated to be missed by 25 percentage points.
The two sectors with the highest emissions are electricity and transport said the report. Almost half of the emissions (39 per cent) are generated from two big power stations located in Vassilikos and Dhekelia since more than 90 per cent of electricity is generated from imported heavy oil or diesel.
The asphalt plant in Vassilikos also produces some 16 per cent of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and employs a substantial number of workers who are at great risk.
The commission calls for the urgent transition to renewable energy such as solar power to reduce the costs of energy generation and improve air quality.
Cyprus will also be unlikely to comply with the Europe’s target for the use of renewables in the transport sector by next year. Transport emissions constitute 21 per cent of Cyprus’ total emissions with the use of public transport reaching 3 per cent of the total trips. The use of renewables in transport is only 2.5 per cent while Europe’s objective is 10 per cent for 2021-2030.
The state started a new plan in February 2020 offering people €5,000 for their old cars, which produce high percentage of GHG emissions, to buy an electric car.
The European Commission proposed the implementation of sustainable urban mobility plans under InvestEU scheme of 2021-2027, such as the addition of electric and hybrid buses, trams and light rail systems in the island.
“Increasing the use of public transport will have environmental, health and productivity-enhancing benefits by reducing the time spent in the car,” said the report.
Referring to the government’s efforts to import liquefied natural gas by the end of 2021, the report said “this is expected to help to diversify the energy mix in the country, although not in the direction of renewables”.
Another factor contributing to the island’s high greenhouse emissions is the low recycling rates, the report said.
The European Commission’s 2020 municipal waste recycling target is 50 per cent. Cyprus’ recycling rate is 17 per cent while EU has an average recycling rate of 46 per cent in 2016.
The island also landfills 75 per cent of its municipal waste which produces landfill gas and contributes to GHG emissions, instead of recovering energy from it. In average, 24 per cent of Europe’s municipal waste ends up in the landfills.
The lack of the necessary infrastructure, coordination and lack of incentives were listed as reasons for the island’s difficulty in implementing EU waste law.