EU will miss Kyoto target, says new report

A research group report has said that the European Union will fail to meet its obligations for reducing CO2 emissions under the Kyoto Protocol because of a failure to implement the necessary policies.

The report by two research bodies, the Dutch company, Ecofys, and the German Fraunhofer Institute, released on 17 October, estimates that the EU’s CO2 emissions will increase by 7-8% of 1990 levels by 2010, compared to the eight percent reduction agreed to in the 1997 UN Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Indeed, the carbon dioxide emissions of six countries studied will be up to 220 million tonnes over target, equivalent to more than the entire current annual carbon dioxide emissions of Belgium and Greece.

Of six of the EU’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters; Germany, France, UK, Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden, which together account for 70% of the bloc’s CO2 emissions and are supposed to limit their emissions to 2,818 million tonnes by 2010, only the UK is likely to meet its target, (see related story). The report shows that the worst offender is likely to be France, which has to maintain emissions at 1990 levels by 2010 under a 1998 EU ‘burden sharing’ agreement but is estimated to increase emissions by between 9 and 20%. France has made no progress on introducing a planned energy tax, says the report, which was compiled before recently revealed proposals, (see related story), and it adopted counter-productive measures such as easing taxes on road transport under pressure from motorists hit by the recent high fuel price.

The UK, which agreed to reduce its greenhouse gases by 12.5% by 2010 and has said it wants to achieve a 20% drop, will reach the target mostly because it has shifted from reliance on coal-fired power stations to gas, the report said.

Of the other four countries’ emissions studied, Germany, which has to cut emissions by 21% of 1990 levels by 2010, is the only other which may achieve its target, by benefiting from the closure of inefficient industrial plants in the former East Germany and placing new taxes on polluting fuels in a bid to wean the nation off its oil dependence (also see next story).

Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands, however, have no chance of getting their CO2 emissions down to the required levels unless they adopt new policies in the near future, the study said.

The Netherlands, supposed to cut emissions by 6 % by 2010, is estimated to increase emissions by between 7 and 20% – emitting 15 to 43 million tonnes more CO2 than they pledged. Even Spain, which is allowed to increase its emissions by 15 %, seems unlikely to contain its emission’s increase with the prescribed limits – heading for an increase around of 20 %. Sweden is set to exceed its target by at least 5 million tonnes.

The report comes shortly before world governments meet in The Hague to hammer out ways to implement the targets reached at Kyoto. “I think we must try to arrive at a binding protocol in The Hague which will lead to actual reductions in carbon dioxide emissions,” German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin said, at the same time predicting that Germany would meet its Kyoto obligations.

“Climate change is a reality, policies to combat it are not” said Stephan Singer, Head of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature’s (WWF) European Energy and Climate Unit, commenting on the report’s findings. “The targets agreed by European countries were not ambitious, but many European Governments seem set to fail to achieve even their timid targets. We urgently need strong policies, backed up by adequate funding, to tackle global warming.”

“European Governments could still meet their targets if they acted decisively on energy efficiency in housing and offices, and if they stopped running scared of the transport sector” Singer added.

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