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22nd Feb 2019

Brussels calls on EU states to hurry up with CO2 goals

The European Commission has called on EU member states to "accelerate" their efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions significantly after a status report on the bloc's efforts showed a slight fall in emissions during 2005.

"It is very encouraging that we are cutting emissions while the European economy grows strongly," said EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas in a statement on Thursday (14 June).

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"But it is clear that many member states need to accelerate their efforts to limit emissions significantly if the EU is to meet its Kyoto target," he warned.

Each year the European Union submits a report to the UN FCCC body – which oversees the 1997 international Kyoto Protocol in which the EU agreed to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 8 percent below 1990 levels by 2012 – on its achievements towards this commitment.

The report, carried out by the Copenhagen-based European Environment Agency (EEA), shows that emissions by the then 15 EU countries - that made the collective Kyoto commitment - fell by 0.8 percent between 2004 and 2005.

Since 1990, emissions by the EU-15 have fallen by 1.5 percent, the EAA said.

But at this rate progress is not nearly sufficient to meet the goals set by the Kyoto Protocol or the bloc itself, which in January agreed to cut CO2 emissions by at least 20 percent by 2020.

"The EU-15 is not on course to meet its international Kyoto Protocol obligations to cut greenhouse gas pollution by 8 percent by 2012," says green NGO Friends of the Earth Europe.

"Several EU countries are still emitting more greenhouse gases than they did in 1990 or even increased their emissions from 2004 to 2005. The EU keeps on saying that it cares about climate change, but the overall data shows that this is not kicking yet," said Sonja Meister from Friends of the Earth.

The remaining 12 member states, which became EU members after the UN agreement was signed, each have individual Kyoto targets.

Greenhouse gas emissions by the EU-27 decreased by 0.7 percent – or 37.9 million tonnes of CO2 - between 2004 and 2005 and have decreased overall by 7.9 percent compared to 1990 levels.

The bloc's biggest economy Germany as well as Finland, the Netherlands and Romania contributed most to the 2005 decrease in absolute terms.

Germany reduced its emissions by 2.3 percent - or 23.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents - Finland by 14.6 percent (11.9 million tonnes), the Netherlands by 2.9 percent (6.3 million tonnes) and Romania by 4 percent (6.4 million tonnes).

Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Sweden and the UK also recorded falls, according to the EEA report.

A warm winter and innovative climate steps at national level that began to bear fruit – such as waste management, closing down of polluting power plants – led to the lower emissions.

Among EU-15 member states Spain recorded the biggest emissions increase in absolute terms in 2005, with a rise of 3.6 percent - or 15.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents.

Spain has within the last few years started to use more coal powered electricity, which is very polluting, and less of the more clean hydro powered electricity due to reduced river levels.

Poland saw the biggest emissions increase in absolute terms among the newest EU-12 member states, with a rise of 0.6 percent - or 2.3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents.

Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal and Slovenia also saw emissions increase in 2005.

But Brussels remain positive that the EU will reach its Kyoto commitments.

"We are very confident that we will be reaching our Kyoto target," Mr Dimas' spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich said on Thursday.

"There is a positive trend and in addition, these figures do not show yet the significant input that the emission trading system will have," she said, adding that other measures such as targets for energy efficiency and renewable energy would help.

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