EU falls behind on green targets
New figures released on Thursday have revealed that the EU is falling far short of reaching its emissions targets under the international climate change treaty, the Kyoto Protocol.
Instead greenhouse gas pollution rose for the second year in a row, according to the Copenhagen-based European Environment Agency.
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Emissions of climate changing greenhouse gases from the whole of the EU increased by 18 million tonnes (0.4%) between 2003 and 2004 while emissions from the EU-15 increased by 11.5 million tonnes (0.3%) in the same period.
"An increase of 0.4 percent may appear small; however, the magnitude of [green house gas] emissions is such that the actual increase is significant", said Jacqueline McGlade, director of the agency.
"Despite the various policy initiatives, this report highlights that the trend is still going in the wrong direction. Europe must implement all planned policies and measures relating to reducing greenhouse gas emissions", she added.
Spain and Italy were the biggest green sinners with the largest emission increases having plus 19.7 (4.8 %) and 5.1 (0.9 %) million tonnes respectively.
On the other hand, Germany, Denmark and Finland all saw decreases in their gas emissions.
Reacting to the latest figures, the European Commission called on member states to step up efforts to reach the bloc's targets.
"To meet our emissions reduction target member states need to intensify their efforts to implement the many EU measures to combat climate change that have been agreed over the past few years," EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said on Thursday (22 June) in a statement.
The commission said that greater efforts were needed and that the 25 member states should take the opportunity to "reverse unsustainable emission trends and ensure they will achieve their Kyoto targets" set in 1997 to reduce emissions by 8 percent below 1990-levels by 2012.
Meanwhile, EU governments are next week set to tell Brussels their expected national allocation plans for the 2008-2012.
The emissions trading scheme, launched in January last year, allows the countries' biggest polluters to trade emission allowances on Europe's climate exchange to ensure that they meet their targets.
Prices on the carbon trading market fluctuated heavily in May following announcements that some EU member states had polluted less than expected leading to fears that the EU climate exchange would crash.
The national allocations must be submitted before 30 June after which the commission has three months to approve them or ask for changes.
The EU's ten newest member states, which joined in 2004, are not obliged to reach the 8 percent Kyoto target but are still expected to submit national allocation plans.