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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 May, 2003, 08:57 GMT 09:57 UK
Europe slips on greenhouse targets
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent

Emissions of greenhouse gases from the European Union increased in 2001 for the second year running.

Snowy city square   BBC
Cold weather boosted fuel consumption

The European Environment Agency (EEA) estimates they were 1% greater than in 2000.

The EU as a whole is committed to reducing emissions by 8% on their 1990 levels by between 2008 and 2012.

On present trends, it appears to stand almost no chance of keeping its promise.

The 8% cut is the commitment made by the EU under the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement on tackling climate change.

Not enough signatories have yet ratified the protocol to allow it to enter into force.

Two years ago President Bush said the US would not ratify it, and Australia has followed suit.

Lukewarm leaders

There are now doubts about the willingness of Russia to do so, because some of its prominent scientists apparently believe climate change could be beneficial to the country.

It is organising a world climate conference in Moscow in late September, to re-examine the science of climate change.

Hydro-electric plant   BBC
Hydropower faltered in 2001

The Europeans have all along been the protocol's most enthusiastic supporters, and their faltering performance will be deeply embarrassing to them.

EU emissions of the principal gas covered by the protocol, carbon dioxide (CO2), rose by 1.6% from 2000 to 2001.

Germany, France and the UK saw the biggest CO2 rises from homes and small businesses.

The EEA says the main reasons for the 2001 increase in all six gases were a colder winter in most EU countries, which meant householders burnt more heating fuel.

Coupled with this were higher emissions from transport, and greater use of fossil fuels in electricity and heating.

On the wrong track

The agency says its emissions inventory "represents best estimates and is subject to annual revision".

It says the big 2001 increases in Austria (up 4.8%) and Finland (7.3%) were caused partly by the cold winter, but also by lower rainfall.

Vineyard   BBC
The future for a warmer Europe?

This cut hydropower production, and also limited Finnish electricity imports from other Nordic countries.

The EEA says: "The latest figures show that 10 of the 15 member states are heading towards overshooting their agreed share by a wide margin - Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain."

Although the EU as a whole is committed to an 8% greenhouse gas cut, individual member states have their own targets.

Up not down

Some of the less developed countries are actually allowed to emit more rather than less: Ireland, for example, is permitted a 13% emissions increase.

The agency says the three countries furthest from keeping to their share of the overall target are Spain, Portugal and Ireland: its emissions in 2001 were 31% higher than in 1990.

Luxembourg showed the biggest reduction of all, cutting emissions by 44% between 1990 and 2001.

It is on course to keep its Kyoto promise, as are Germany, Sweden and the UK. France looks at present likely to fail by a very narrow margin.

The prominent UK global warming sceptic Professor Philip Stott commented: "One of the most galling things about the whole climate change debate has been European duplicity.

"While lecturing everybody else, especially America, on the morality of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it has been abundantly clear from the start that most European countries didn't have a snowflake in hell's chance of meeting their own Kyoto targets."




SEE ALSO:
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Greenhouse gases 'at record levels'
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UK 'may fail on climate cuts'
12 Feb 03  |  Science/Nature
Climate meeting ignores targets plea
01 Nov 02  |  South Asia


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