The European Union’s greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 19.2% compared to 1990s levels, according to the European Environment Agency.

EU emissions dropped 1.3% in 2012, reaching their lowest level ever recorded, according to data reported to the United Nations by the EEA. The bloc's greenhouse gas output decreased by 1082 megatonnes since 1990, more than the combined emissions of Italy and United Kingdom in 2012.

Italy accounted for 45% of the EU's emissions reduction in 2012, due to lower emissions from transport and industry, according to the EEA report, published yesterday (3 June). The second largest reduction was in Poland, due to reduced solid fuel consumption.

Emissions rose in the UK and Germany, where solid fuel consumption increased.

The data suggests that the EU may be on target to reach early its target of reducing CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020, set out in the Climate and Energy Package.

The EEA attributes about a third of the emissions trends to GDP changes, observed in periods of growth or recession. Increases in energy efficiency and the uptake of renewable energy have also contributed, according to the EU body.

Two other recent recent announcements have led analysts to suggest that the tide may be turning on the global bid to curb CO2 emissions. US President Barack Obama recently announced measures to reduce power plant emissions 30% by 2030, in the US’ “strongest action ever” to fight climate change, according to the EU’s climate action commissioner, Connie Hedegaard.

The day after the US announcement, a top government advisor confirmed that China plans to set  cap its CO2 emissions, to take effect from 2016.

Environmental considerations

The EEA also published two reports on using indicators to support environmental policy and decision-making, underscoring the need for reliable data.

EU governments will also have to develop a more detailed understanding of the interplay between economic, social and environmental factors if they are to implement the EU’s Seventh Environmental Action Programme (EAP). The programme, which defines the EU’s environmental policy until the year 2020, calls for the development of a ‘green’ resource-efficient and low-carbon economy.

This requires the full integration of environmental considerations into other policy areas, from employment and education to economy and industry, the document says.

"Coherence is still a large challenge in European policy today, and inclusive set of indicators can help bridge the gap towards integrated policy making," said Erik Gerritsen of the WWF. "Generally speaking, we don't see a lack of environment ministries using social and economic data, but rather the opposite."