EU will fail Kyoto targets with existing policies

EU countries will miss greenhouse gas targets if they continue to pursue inadequate policies on cutting emissions. But additional measures planned in a number of countries could still ensure EU Kyoto targets are met, says a new report.

The latest projections from the European Environment Agency show that existing emission policies of Member States will yield a total EU emissions reduction of 4.7% by 2010, far short of set targets, according to the report Greenhouse gas emission trends and projections in Europe. Under the Kyoto Protocol, the EU is required to cut its combined emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases to an average of 8% below 1990 levels by 2010.

Most of the projected 4.7% decrease will come from Germany, Sweden and the UK cutting emissions by more than they are required to do under a EU ‘burden-sharing’ agreement, says the EEA. If the three countries merely met their individual targets instead of over-complying, overall EU emissions would drop by only 0.6% by 2010, says the EEA report. The remaining Member States are expected to fall short of requirements, with Spain missing its targets by 33%.

“More than half of the Member States are not on track towards their Kyoto targets. They have to do more,” says Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström.

The good news is that extra measures planned in a number of countries could see the EU cutting up to 12.4% of emissions, well beyond the 8% target. But even with these additional measures, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Spain would still exceed their limits, says the EEA.

Although predicted over-compliance by Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and the UK is expected to cancel out excess emissions from other countries, over-achievements cannot be assumed since they are not required, warns the report. If the six countries only achieve their minimum targets, the total EU emissions cut will be 6.2%, leaving a shortfall of 1.8%.

The EEA recommends that countries make use of the Protocol’s mechanisms – emissions trading, joint implementation and the clean development mechanism – to help meet their targets. Sequestration of carbon by forests, soils and agriculture could also be taken into account.

Transport is the fastest-growing source of emissions, largely because of increases in road transport, says the EEA. While most sectors in the EU cut their emissions between 1990 and 2000, those from transport have risen by nearly 20% and are expected to reach 28% by 2010, although some progress has been made is reducing emissions from new cars by 10%.

Emissions from energy use are expected to be 16% below 1990 levels by 2010, while those from agriculture are projected to fall to 7% below 1990 from reforms in the Common Agricultural Policy and reductions in fertiliser use, says the EEA. New landfill regulations will lead to a 60% drop in emissions from waste. Candidate countries are also doing well, and are on track to meet their own Kyoto commitments, says the EEA.

The European Commission’s own report shows that greenhouse gas emissions are down by 3.5% compared to 1990, slightly less than the 1999 drop of 4%.

CO2 emissions are 0.5% below 1990 levels while methane and nitrous oxide emissions have dropped by 16 % and 20 % respectively.

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