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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 December, 2003, 09:14 GMT
Cars risk Europe's climate cuts
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent

Queuing motorway traffic   PA
Road traffic is growing by leaps and bounds
The European Union and many member states will probably fail to meet their promises on cutting greenhouse gases, the European Environment Agency says.

It blames a huge growth in transport emissions, especially by road vehicles.

These look likely to rise by more than a third between 1990 and 2010, even without a contribution from aviation.

But the agency says there is a chance new policies being planned by 11 EU member states could help them to come close to the cuts they have promised.

The agency's forecast will be published in a report, Greenhouse Gas Emission Trends And Projections In Europe 2003.

It is announcing the projections as a meeting of the countries which have signed the international climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, gets under way in the Italian city of Milan.

Slow start

The protocol commits the EU to achieving an overall cut in emissions of six gases which scientists believe are exacerbating natural climate change.

It must reduce them to 8% below their 1990 levels by between 2008 and 2012. Beyond that, each of its 15 member states has its own target for cutting emissions.

By 2001, the most recent year for which complete data are available, the EU had achieved an emission reduction of 2.3% on 1990 levels.

Airport runway   BBC
Kyoto does not apply to aviation
The agency says: "The latest projections show that existing domestic policies and measures... will reduce the EU's total emissions in 2010 to only 0.5% below 1990 levels, leaving it 7.5% short of the Kyoto target."

Even that assumes the best performers - Sweden and the UK - will do better than they have promised. If they simply meet their promises, the EU's reduction will shrink to 0.2%.

The 13 other members will also miss their individual Kyoto targets, with Denmark, Spain, Ireland, Austria and Belgium exceeding theirs by more than 20%.

The agency says: "The latest projections are much more pessimistic than last year's because Germany - producing around a quarter of total EU greenhouse gas emissions - is now forecasting a substantially smaller emissions reduction than previously."

Unstoppable traffic flow

Even if the new measures being planned by 11 EU members are implemented and work as hoped, the agency says, the overall emissions cut will still be only about 7.2%, tantalisingly short of the 8% commitment.

It is in no doubt of the reason for the EU's expected failure, on present trends, to live up to its promises.

The agency says: "The main reason is a runaway increase in emissions from transport, especially road transport...

Red Square, Moscow   AP
All eyes on Moscow
"The transport sector, responsible for just over one-fifth of the EU's greenhouse gases, poses by far the biggest challenge to the Kyoto targets, largely because of fast-growing emissions from road transport...

"Total emissions from transport are projected to be 34% above 1990 levels in 2010. This does not include rapidly increasing emissions from international air travel, which is not covered by Kyoto."

The Kyoto Protocol has not yet entered into force, and cannot do so unless and until one of the biggest polluters, Russia, ratifies it.

The US has said it will not ratify the treaty, leaving the EU as its most enthusiastic advocate among the industrialised countries.

If Europe, together and severally, does not make good its promises to cut emissions, the protocol's critics will understandably have a field day.

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