EU halfway to Kyoto target, but emissions up - EEA
Author: Robin Pomeroy
The European Environment Agency (EEA) said the 15-nation bloc's emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and the other gases blamed for global warming covered by the Kyoto pact were 3.5 percent lower than in 1990, but slightly higher than in 1999.
Under Kyoto, the European Union must reduce its greenhouse gas output by eight percent of 1990 levels by the five-year period 2008-2012. Due largely to big cuts in Germany and Britain, the bloc's emissions were already 3.8 percent below 1990 levels in 1999.
"The figures make clear that in 2000 the EU suffered a slight reversal in its progress towards achieving its Kyoto target," EEA Executive Director Domingo Jimenez-Beltran said in a statement.
The EU has strived to save the 1997 Kyoto agreement from collapse after the United States withdrew from it last year.
Washington said it would hurt the U.S. economy to slash the gases, mostly from power generation and transport, that are blamed for trapping excessive heat in the atmosphere, posing a major risk to the climate.
U.S. emissions rose by at least 14 percent between 1990 and 2000, the EEA said.
The EU aims to ratify Kyoto within the next two months and if Russia and Japan also do so, as they have indicated, the treaty can come into force without the United States, the world's biggest producer of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
The reversal in the EU's downward trend was partly due to an increase in coal burning for electricity generation in Britain, which had slashed its CO2 output in the 1990s by a major switch to less polluting gas-powered generators, the EEA said.
Britain, the second biggest polluter in the EU after Germany, saw its CO2 output rise 1.2 percent year-on-year in 2000, although it was still 7.0 percent down on 1990 levels.
Nine EU states are still far from reaching their individual targets, the EEA said, with Spain the worst performer. Its emissions were up 33.7 percent on 1990 levels in 2000.
Under an agreement with other EU states, Spain aims to limits emissions growth to 15 percent by the end of the decade.
Germany was the best performer, with emissions down 19.1 percent, close to the 21 percent reduction it agreed as part of the "burden sharing" by which more developed EU countries accepted a larger cut than poorer ones.
Germany has reduced emissions by closing the more polluting industrial plants in the former East Germany.
Environmental group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said the upward trend in the EU's emissions showed the bloc needed to make more effort on saving energy and developing renewable sources.
"These figures clearly show that the EU cannot rely on its stabilisation of CO2 emissions," WWF's Giulio Volpi said.
"One-off cuts such as the dash-to-gas in the UK and the accession of Eastern Germany - this will not happen again. Rather the contrary is happening: emissions from the power sector are growing again, and significantly."