Bulgaria’s CO2 emissions

2 min read


Jordan Flagel

Sustainability & Environmental Specialist, certified GRI professional for sustainability reporting

Bulgaria is an often overlooked country nestled along the Black Sea coast in the Eastern Balkans. The country has been undergoing a slow and sometimes difficult transition to an open market economy since it regained independence from Soviet Communist rule, which came about shortly after the Second World War. Now, Bulgaria is full-fledged member of the EU and Nato, with increasingly stronger ties to Western European nations – and along with this development has come an added benefit: CO2 emissions in Bulgaria have actually been decreasing as the country moves towards greater prosperity.

This article describes all aspects of CO2 emissions in Bulgaria and elaborates on various factors that will determine the future of the country’s carbon footprint.

CO2 emissions in Bulgaria per capita

How much GHG does an average person emit in Bulgaria? This number is not only the sum of emissions from individual commuting, shopping, or energy use. In terms of calculating the average emissions of a citizen, first we need to calculate the total emissions of a country (including the entire amount from industry, transport, and production) and divide this figure by the number of its inhabitants.

The average Bulgarian citizen emits 2020, CO2 emissions per capita for Bulgaria was 5.48 tons of CO2 per capita. Though Bulgaria CO2 emissions per capita fluctuated substantially in recent years, it tended to decrease through 1971 – 2020 period ending at 5.48 tons of CO2 per capita in 2020. The period between 1989 and 1991, which coincided with the collapse of Communist rule, resulted in a massive drop in per capita CO2 emissions, from a little over 10.2 metric tons per person down to 6.8 in the span of just two years.

What creates CO2 emissions in Bulgaria?

The power industry creates the vast majority of CO2 emissions in Bulgaria with a little over 64% of total emissions coming from this sector. The transportation industry is the next biggest with a comparatively smaller yet still significant 15%. Every other sector is responsible for less than 10% of total emissions, including non-combustion activities (9%), other industrial activities (8%), and buildings (4%).

CO2 emissions in the Bulgaria transport sector

As mentioned above, Bulgaria’s transport sector has accounted for 15% of total emissions in 2020. This is interesting to note because in 2014 this number was 4.5% higher at 19.5 %. CO2 emissions in Bulgaria’s transport sector increased from 8% in 1995 to 19.5 % in 2014, with an annual average growth rate of 5.29%. It is therefore encouraging that emissions from transport have decreased nearly 5% over the past half-decade and show signs of continuing to drop.

What are considered CO2 emissions from transport?

CO2 emissions created by the transport sector come from the combustion of fuel for all transport activity, regardless of the type of vehicle, excluding international marine bunkers and international aviation. The transport sector therefore includes domestic aviation, domestic navigation, road, rail, and pipeline transport. This corresponds to IPCC Source categories and aligns with the definitions provided by the IEA.

Is cycling popular in Bulgaria?

Since the fall of communism in the country, Bulgaria has witnessed changes in every aspect with regard to cycling. This includes the numbers and share of bicycle trips, the development of cycling infrastructure, and the social and cultural significance of using bicycles as a mode of urban transport. When it comes to non-locals, however, Bulgaria remains one of the least visited cycling destinations in Europe – though those that do venture to the country with a bike in tow will discover a beautiful country that is picturesquely perfect for cycling. On top of the mountains, lakes, and rivers, there is the Black Sea coast with forests and inviting becahes, making any point along the way a perfect start or end point for a cycling trip in Bulgaria.

Is cycling completely CO2-free? Unfortunately not. A bicycle doesn’t run on petrol, but we do need to provide our bodies with calories to get it moving. Food, its packaging, transportation, and refrigeration – all of these, unfortunately, leave a carbon footprint. Additionally, the production of a bicycle also leaves a carbon footprint. Nonetheless, the bicycle remains the greenest (and healthiest!) mode of transportation mankind has yet invented. How much CO2 do we save by cycling? Over a distance of 10 km compared to a car ride it is already about 2.6 kg CO2! Just imagine how huge a cloud of gas would have to be to become that heavy! Visualizing it helps to realize how huge the real savings are.

Public transport in Bulgaria

Almost all types of public transport have been developed in the country, although the quality of transport services does not always correspond to European standards. The most popular type of public transport in the country is buses (less often, trolleybuses and trams). It is worth noting that public urban transport in large cities, especially at the height of the tourist season, is often insufficient. As a result, trolleybuses and trams, as well as buses, run overcrowded. Also, the technical condition of the motor transport leaves much to be desired. Formal public transport accounts for 63% of motorized trips, personal car 27%, marshrutka 7% and taxi 3%; modal shares in public transport are 54% bus, 22% tram, 13% trolleybus, and 11% metro.

How many cars in Bulgaria

Between 1990 and 2015 the number of passenger cars in Bulgaria continuously grew, resulting in a peak of 3.2 million at the end of this period. SInce 2015 the number of cars in the country has declined, with about 2.8 million persnoal vehicles registered as of 2018.

How many electric cars are there in Bulgaria?

In 2020, the number of electric vehicles in Bulgaria increased by 57% from 2019, to a total of 1,493, including 544 newly-registered EVs. The number of hybrid models also increased by nearly 50%, with 2,989 new additions to bring the total in the country to 9,817. .

Energy sources in Bulgaria – what runs the country?

Bulgaria’s power sector is diverse and well developed, with universal access to the electrical grid and numerous cross-border connections in neighbouring countries. Environmentally-friendly, efficient and secure energy is critical for Bulgaria’s future. While the country is currently dependent on imported fuels from Russia,  Bulgaria manages to have an annual energy surplus and is a net exporter of electricity. Anticipated future consumption within the country should grow slowly, allowing Bulgaria to develop itself as an energy hub.

Bulgarian RES: What are the most popular renewable energy sources in Bulgaria?

Hydropower is the most utilizes renewable energy source in Bulgaria, with approximately 14% of the total installed capacity. Electricity generation from hydro not only makes a substantial contribution to meeting the increased electricity demand, it is also the most used source of energy that is not a fossil fuel or nuclear-based electricity generation technology. In 2019 Bulgaria pledged to update its national target for renewable energy, aiming to raise the share of wind, solar, and other renewables to 27% of total energy consumption by 2030.

Industry in Bulgaria – an overview

The main industries in Bulgaria have traditionally been focused around agriculture, forestry, and mining. Today, these still play an important role in the country, but are joined by the metallurgical industry, electricity generation, electronics manufacturing, machinery and equipment manufacturing, shipbuilding, petrochemical production, cement production and construction, textiles, food and beverage production, and mining. In addition, tourism has become a main industry in recent years, and contunues to grow with an influx in remote workers taking advantage of the natural beauty and relatively low cost of living, as well as with intrepid tourists in search of mountain vistas and Black Sea beaches.

What can be done to lower CO2 emissions in Bulgaria?

Bulgariahas been doing a very good job of reducing emissions, with a lower than average per capita emission rate and steadily dropping emissions since regaining independence. However, as with everywhere else that has been doing a good job of reducing carbon output, more still needs to be done on the road to net-zero CO2 emissions.

Reducing CO2 is a task we must undertake together, across all regions and borders – and Bulgaria has the potential to be a real leader on this issue. Global success in achieving climate goals depends as much on the government as it does on businesses and individuals – without multifaceted cooperation, we have no chance of reducing our emissions.

How can I reduce emissions on my own?

You can always offset them by purchasing TerGo packages, each of which is created by planting trees to absorb and store CO2 through our partner project in Belize. By purchasing TerGo packages you will not only reduce your carbon footprint, but will also contribute to the creation of better jobs in Belize, helping to support local farmers while funding the restoration of biodiversity in one of the most naturally beautiful countries in the world.

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