EU member states have made progress in cutting their greenhouse gas emissions to be on course to meet their Kyoto targets, according to data released for 2006. But the Commission is particularly concerned about emissions rises in the new member states.
The report, released by the European Environment Agency (EEA) on 18 June, shows emissions from the EU 27 fell by 0.3% from 2005 levels, and 7.7% from the base level of 1990. Total emissions amounted to over 5.1 billion tonnes of CO2 emitted in 2006, compared to almost 5.6 billion tonnes in 1990.
The main reasons, according to the Commission, for the reduction of greenhouse gases in the EU were warmer weather, lower production of nitric acid (which causes the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide), decreases in emissions from chemicals production in France and Hungary and lower use of gas and liquid fluids by households.
The EU 15 made the most progress in cutting emissions, an 0.8% reduction from 2005 levels. This led Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas to call the decreases “encouraging”, adding that member states had to “keep accelerating their efforts to limit or reduce emissions”. But Denmark and Finland were singled out for having the biggest increases in greenhouse gas emissions with 10.9% and 16.3% compared to 2005 levels.
Additionally, the EU 15 further reduced its emissions in the waste and agriculture sectors, whilst the manufacturing sector showed a slight decline and the energy sector has stabilised its emissions in the last few years.
The Commission was pleased the EU 15 was able to record a 2.8% increase in GDP in 2005-2006 while reducing emissions, saying it achieved its objective of decoupling economic growth and emissions reduction.
Conversely, the twelve new member states came in for particular criticism by the Commission, who politely called their emissions increases “not helpful”. Dimas said the new member states “have to bear in mind that they cannot rely on the successes of the past,” alluding to the sharp decreases in emissions in Eastern Europe in the 1990s, which were a result of the collapse of Communism and related industries.
The road transport sector, however, has been of particular concern to the Commission, with emissions rising continuously, releasing 6.5 million tonnes of CO2 or some 0.7% more than 2005. The EEA puts this down to the increased use of diesel for freight and passenger transport. Emissions as a result of industrial processes were slightly up.
Two sectors currently not covered by the Kyoto Protocol, the aviation and international shipping industries, had large increases of five and 10 million tonnes of CO2 respectively.
The findings of the report were slammed by NGO Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE), which called the data “alarming” and demanded that governments take urgent action as they are a long way off meeting the Kyoto targets.
“Europe needs to seriously step up its action against climate change,” said Sonja Meister, a climate campaigner at FOEE. “This data puts even more pressure on the EU to agree on an ambitious energy package to ensure emissions cuts happen every year and are sustained over the long term,” she added. She believed the emissions cuts achieved in 2006 were not a result of the actions taken by governments “but mainly due to warmer weather conditions”.
The EEA report has been submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.