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EU greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase

12 May 2003

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the European Union have increased for the second consecutive year, shows the annual greenhouse gas inventory released last week by the European Environment Agency (EEA). Total EU emissions of the six GHG gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol were 1% higher in 2001, the latest year for which data are available, than a year earlier, moving the EU further away from meeting its Kyoto commitment.

The main reasons for the rise were a colder winter that led households to burn more heating fuel, higher emissions from transport—due to continuing increase in road transport volumes—and greater use of fossil fuels in electricity and heat production.

Despite the increase from 2000, EU GHG emissions in 2001 stood 2.3% below their level in 1990. However, this was less of a drop than in the two previous years. In 2000 emissions had stood 3.3% lower than in 1990 and in 1999, 3.6% lower. Under the Kyoto Protocol, the EU must bring down its emissions of six GHG gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, HFCs, PFCs and SF6) to 8% below their 1990 level by 2008-2012 (the Protocol has not yet achieved the required number of ratifications to enter into force and its future depends on ratification by Russia).

EU emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most important greenhouse gas, accounting for 82% of total EU GHG emissions, increased by 1.6% between 2000 and 2001. They also were 1.6% higher in 2001 than in 1990. CO2 emissions from households and small businesses jumped 6.0% in 2001 from a year earlier due to increased heating needs. CO2 emissions from electricity and heat production rose by 1.5% between 2000 and 2001, and those from transport by 1.3%.

The latest figures show that 10 of the 15 Member States—Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Denmark, Italy, Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands, and Finland—are heading towards exceeding their agreed share of the EU GHG emissions target by a wide margin. Luxembourg shows the biggest GHG emissions cut of any Member State in percentage terms, decreasing by 44% since 1990. Germany, the largest EU emitter, has achieved the deepest reduction among the big Member States, with an 18% cut since 1990. Between 2000 and 2001 Germany’s emissions rose by 1.2%, however.

Source: EEA | European Community GHG inventory 1990-2001