The European Union reduced its CO2 emissions by 2.5% last year, with all but eight of the EU’s 28 nations emitting less of the greenhouse gas in 2018 than the year prior.

Leading the pack and achieving a cut of 9% was Portugal. The country had separately reported last month that almost 60% of its electricity generation in the first quarter of this year came from renewable sources – wind, hydropower and solar power.

Bulgaria - which has seen a surge in green power generation investment in recent years and is in the process of liberalizing its energy market - achieved the second biggest reduction, cutting its emissions by 8% last year.

Image: Eurostat

Higher growth, more emissions

At the other end of the spectrum is Latvia, where emissions soared by over 8% because imported gas was used to meet increased demand for electricity generation. Demand was bolstered by a 5% hike in gross domestic product last year.

Rapid population growth and a burgeoning tourism sector saw Malta record the second-highest rate of emissions growth last year. The small island nation is almost entirely dependent on imported gas for power generation.

Limited terrain has curtailed Malta's ability to install large-scale solar plants, despite enjoying high sunshine levels. As a result, Malta has the third lowest level of renewable resources in the EU.

The EU has set a target of obtaining 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Overall, the the bloc says it is on track to meet its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% from 1980 levels by next year. Total emissions fell by 22% between 1990 and 2017.

The next target is to cut emissions by a further 40% against 1990 levels between 2021 and 2030. The EU wants renewable sources to account for a third of power generation by the same date.