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EU greenhouse gas emissions drop slightly

23 June 2008

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The European Union is on track to meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol as emissions dropped in 2006 compared to previous years. However, rising transport emissions and lacking progress in new Member States remain major threats, latest data show.
Overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across all 27 EU Member States fell by 14 million tonnes, or 0.3%, in the period 2005-2006, according to the official inventory report issued by the European Environment Agency (EEA) on 18 June. Main reason for the decrease was a lower consumption of gas and oil in households as a result of less heating during the warmer year 2006. Overall, 5.1 billion tonnes of total GHG were emitted in the EU in that year, which is 7.7% below 1990 levels.

Emissions in the EU-15 countries fell even by 0.8% (or 35 million tonnes) in 2006. Progress in these 15 nations, that together account for more than 80 percent of the EU total emissions, was necessary to put them back on track to meet their Kyoto Protocol targets. Under the international treaty they are required to keep average emissions by 2012 at least 8% below 1990 levels. At present, EU-15 Member States have reduced joint emissions only to 2.7% below 1990 levels but keeping the same pace could bring them near the 8% target within the next years.

Transport & EU-12 remain major concerns

Despite the general GHG emissions reductions, the EEA inventory also revealed major setbacks in the period 2005-2006. Emissions of carbon dioxide, the most important greenhouse gas, did not decrease but only remained stable. More importantly, the 12 new EU Member States, and here mostly eastern Europe, failed to support the positive trend and largely increased their GHG emissions last year. Calling these increases “not helpful”, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas urged all countries to not rely on past successes but accelerate the introduction of environmental policies and measures.

The EEA report also confirmed that, contrary to overall GHG reductions, emissions from road transport continued to grow, releasing 6.5 million tonnes of CO2 or 0.7% more than in 2005. The transport sector thus remains a source of major concern to threaten EU-wide progress.

Emissions cuts do not threat economic growth

The emissions drop in EU-15 countries in 2006 coincided with a 2.8% increase in GDP over the same period, the EEA inventory showed. The EU Commission welcomed this finding as yet another proof that countries can succeed in decoupling emissions reductions while promoting economic growth.


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