Commission Calls for New Policies as EU Greenhouse Gases Rise Again

EU greenhouse gas emissions rose for the second successive year in 2001, raising concerns over progress towards targets under the Kyoto Protocol. The European Commission has responded with a call for 'additional measures' to cut emissions from industry, transport and products.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, the EU signed up to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 8% below the 1990 level by 2008-12. The overall target was carved up between Member States in a 'burden-sharing' agreement which was made legally binding last year.

Progress towards the target appears to have stalled. According the European Environment Agency, emissions across the EU increased in both 2000 and 2001.1Emissions in 1999 were 3.6% lower than in 1990. However, they then increased by 0.3% in 2000, and by a further 1% in 2001.

The picture is even worse for CO2, the main greenhouse gas, emissions of which increased by 1.6% in 2001 to rise above the 1990 level.

In 2001, greenhouse gas emissions increased in all Member States except Spain. The biggest rises occurred in Austria (4.8%) and Finland (7.3%) as a result of a cold winter and reduced hydroelectric output. Increases of 1.2-1.3% were also reported for the EU's two biggest emitters, Germany and the UK, the latter mainly because of increased coal burn.

The EEA warns that 10 of the 15 Member States look set to overshoot their burden-sharing targets by a wide margin. Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Austria are furthest off course. So far the UK, Germany, Sweden and Luxembourg appear to be on track.


Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström warned that the EU is 'moving further away' from meeting its Kyoto target. She said that 'the progress we have made already needs to be backed up by additional measures' - particularly in Member States that are not on track.

The Commission backed up its call with its second progress report on the European Climate Change Programme.2 This initiative, which reported in 2001, set out to identify the most cost-effective emission reduction measures and led the Commission to propose a range of new measures.

The progress report identifies policies and measures with a total emission reduction potential of 578-696mtCO2e (million tonnes of CO2 equivalent). This represents a reduction of 13.8-16.6% below 1990 levels - about twice the EU's target under the Kyoto Protocol. However, the report stresses that these are potential savings, and real savings 'in the field' may be considerably less.

The total potential savings do not include the impacts of the Commission's voluntary agreement with car manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency, which is due for review this autumn. Enhancing agricultural or forestry sinks could add a further 93-103mtCO2e to the total, although great difficulties remain over accounting for any sequestration and determining whether it is secure in the long term.

Measures already in force or proposed by the Commission could deliver savings of 276-316mtCO2e. These include the Directives on renewable energy, energy performance of buildings, landfill and biofuels, and the proposed Directive on combined heat and power.

The Commission identifies a number of other key measures at an advanced stage of preparation. These include an imminent proposal to link the Kyoto Protocol's 'flexible mechanisms' to the EU emissions trading scheme, energy efficiency standards for end-use equipment, proposals on energy services and public procurement, and curbs on fluorinated gases. These are estimated to have a combined emission reduction potential of 83-116mtCO2e.

Several other initiatives are at the 'preparatory stage.' These include measures to deal with mobile air conditioning, a Directive on fiscal measures for passenger cars, an initiative on CO2 emissions from light commercial vehicles, integration of energy efficiency into the EMAS environmental management standard, and steps to stimulate the use of renewable energy sources for heating applications

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