Progress report shows EU on track to meet or over-achieve Kyoto emissions target

The EU is on track to deliver on its Kyoto Protocol commitments for reducing or limiting emissions of greenhouse gases, the Commission’s annual progress report on emissions shows.

The latest projections indicate that the EU-15 will meet its 8% reduction target under Kyoto; 10 of the 12 remaining Member States of the EU have also individual commitments under the protocol. It is projected that they will reduce their emissions to 6 or 8% below base year levels. This will be achieved through a combination of policies and measures already taken, the purchase of emission credits from projects in third countries, the acquisition of allowances and credits by participants in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), and forestry activities that absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said that these projections “further cement the EU’s leadership in delivering on our international commitments to combat climate change. They show the EU-15 is well on track to meet its Kyoto target for 2008-2012. And with the EU climate and energy package adopted earlier this year we have already put in place the key measures to reduce our emissions much further to at least 20% below 1990 levels by 2020. No other region of the world has yet done this. But a 20% cut is not enough to prevent dangerous climate change, and that is why the EU has pledged to scale up our reduction to 30% provided other major emitters contribute their fair share to an ambitious global climate agreement in December in Copenhagen. It is crucial that our partners in the industrialised world and the big emerging economies live up to their responsibilities.”

Under the Kyoto Protocol, the 15 countries which were EU member states when the Protocol was agreed (the so-called EU-15) are committed to reducing their collective greenhouse gas emissions in the period 2008-2012 to 8% below levels in a chosen base year (1990 in most cases). This collective commitment has been translated into differentiated national emission targets for each EU-15 member state which are binding under EU law.

There is no collective target for EU-27 emissions. Ten of the twelve member states which joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 have individual commitments under the Protocol to reduce their emissions to 6% or 8% below base year levels by 2008-2012. Only Cyprus and Malta have no emission target.

As announced in May (see IP/09/851 ), EU-15 greenhouse gas emissions in 2007 – the latest year for which full data are available – were 5.0% lower than base year levels. This contrasted with economic growth of around 44% over the same period. For the EU-27 as a whole, emissions fell by 12.5% between the base year and 2007.

Additionally, the European Environment Agency estimates that in 2008 emissions from the EU-15 member states fell further, to 6.2% below their levels in the base year . EU-27 emissions are now estimated to be 13.6% lower than the base year level.

The Commission’s progress report shows that existing policies and measures – those already implemented – are expected to reduce EU-15 emissions to 6.9% below base year levels in the commitment period 2008-2012.

Plans by 10 of the EU-15 member states to buy credits from emission-saving projects carried out in third countries under Kyoto’s three market-based mechanisms – international emissions trading, the Clean Development Mechanism and the Joint Implementation instrument – would bring a further reduction of 2.2%.This would take the overall reduction to around 9.0% 3 and thus over-deliver on the EU’s Kyoto commitment. Acquisition of allowances and credits by EU ETS operators is expected to deliver a further 1.4% reduction.

Planned afforestation and reforestation activities, which create biological ‘sinks’ that absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, would contribute an additional cut of 1.0%.

Additional policies and measures under discussion would, if fully implemented, bring further cuts of up to 1.6%. This would take the overall reduction to around 13.1%, 3 giving a broad safety margin for achieving the 8% reduction target.

All ten EU-12 member states that have a Kyoto target are projected to meet or over-achieve their Kyoto commitments.

Current uncertainty over the duration and severity of the economic recession, and thus its impact on emissions, could lead to the revision of projections in future once the outlook becomes clearer. Additionally, the projections of some member states may understate future emission reductions as they do not yet take account of the EU climate and energy package adopted earlier this year (see IP/09/628 ).

Furthermore, the methodology used to estimate the EU ETS effect needs further improvement. Robust and consistent methodologies and assumptions are needed in order to more accurately project the EU ETS effect.

GHG emission projections need to be considered in the perspective of the effective reductions already achieved, which amounted to -9% for the EU-27 and -4% for the EU-15 between 1990 and 2007. Therefore, reduction efforts will need to accelerate substantially across the EU in the future if it is to meet its -20% or -30% target by 2020.

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