EU-15 on Track to Meet 2012 Kyoto GHG Target, Despite Mixed Performances; 20% Reduction by 2020 Not Attainable Without Further Measures

Jose Michael

EU-15 greenhouse gas emissions and projections for the Kyoto period 2008–2012. Click to enlarge. Source: EEA

The EU-15 should meet its collective target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 8% for the period 2008–2012, according to a new report by the European Environment Agency (EEA). A large part of this decrease will come from emission reduction projects that EU countries will finance in other countries.

The report also gives a long-term estimate of the emissions situation in Europe. Although emissions are projected to continue decreasing until 2020 in the EU-27, the 20% reduction target compared to 1990, endorsed by European leaders in 2007, will remain out of reach without the implementation of additional measures, such as the EU energy and climate change package proposed by the European Commission in January 2008, according to the report.

Emission performance remains mixed in the EU-15. A few Member States are still off their Kyoto track. However, if the expected outstanding performance of other Member States is taken into account, the EU-15 as a whole should meet its Kyoto commitment. In addition, the situation would look better for some Member States if their projections took full account of the emission restrictions facing their industries covered by the EU Emission Trading Scheme.

—Prof. Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA

The report, Greenhouse gas emission trends and projections in Europe 2008, evaluates historic emissions from 1990–2006. It also looks at projections of future emissions during the Kyoto Protocol commitment period (2008–2012).

Overall, projections from Member States for the Kyoto period indicate that the EU-15 could cut emissions by more than 11% compared to the base-year. This could be achieved by a combination of domestic policies and measures (in force and planned), carbon sink activities and credits for emission reductions outside EU.

Data show that the 15 EU Member States sharing a common target under the Kyoto Protocol (EU-15) achieved a reduction of their greenhouse gases by 2.7% between the base year and 2006. The policies and measures in place as of today will not be sufficient for the EU-15 to meet its Kyoto target, as they are expected to push down emissions between 2006 and 2010 to an average level only 3.6 % below the base-year emissions. If the additional measures planned by 10 Member States were fully implemented and on time, a further reduction of 3.3 % could be obtained. The full effect of the EU Emission Trading Scheme is not reflected in all Member States’ projections.

Most EU-15 Member States intend to use carbon sinks—such as planting forests that absorb CO2—to achieve their Kyoto target. The total amount of carbon dioxide that could be removed annually between 2008 and 2012 is relatively small (1.4 % compared to 1990), although it is somewhat higher than the projections made in 2007.

Ten EU-15 Member States have planned to use the Kyoto Mechanisms to achieve their targets. This is expected to reduce emissions by a further 3.0%. The Kyoto Protocol envisages market-based mechanisms that allow industrialized countries to meet their targets by benefiting from emission reductions in other countries. Under these mechanisms, Member States can trade emissions between themselves or acquire credits from emission-cutting projects they finance abroad. These mechanisms also help the transfer of low-carbon technologies to other countries and promote sustainable development.

The EEA report singles out the case of those countries that have promised “significant emission reductions in a limited time frame (2006–2010) from policies and measures that have not been implemented yet”. In addition, countries which project significant emission reductions from 2006 to meet their target by 2010 will actually have to sustain their efforts and further reduce emissions until 2012. In the end, some Member States might make use of Kyoto mechanisms more intensively than they are currently planning.

The overall EU-15 Kyoto target of –8 % corresponds to differentiated emission targets for each Member State. In 2006, four EU-15 Member States (France, Greece, Sweden and the United Kingdom) had already reached a level below their Kyoto target. Eight additional EU-15 Member States (Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal) project that they will achieve their targets, but projections from three Member States (Denmark, Italy and Spain) indicate that they will not meet their emission reduction goals. However, the report notes that gaps between targets and predictions are much narrower than the projections made in 2007.

Ten of the 12 Member States that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 have individual reduction targets of 6 or 8%. Only Cyprus and Malta do not have a target. In the EU-12, the Member States project that they will achieve their Kyoto targets despite projected increases in emissions between 2006 and 2010. Slovenia is the only one of these Member States planning to use the Kyoto mechanisms to meet its target.

2020. With the measures currently in place, EU-27 greenhouse gas emissions are projected to increase by 1% between 2006 and 2010, the report concludes. With the implementation of additional measures, EU-27 emissions are projected to decrease continuously between 2006 and 2020.

Nevertheless, current projections indicate that the EU-27 will not be able to reach the 20% reduction target. Most projections from Member States do not, however, take into account the effects of the EU climate change and energy package proposed by the Commission in January 2008.

—Greenhouse gas emission trends and projections in Europe 2008, Executive Summary

The executive summary of the report and the country profiles are already available online. The full report will be published in November.

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