European Commission, Environment DG

Greenhouse Gas Emission Trends and Projections in Europe

Untitled Document Abstract

The actual and projected progress (by 2010) of the EU and candidate countries towards reaching their targets under the Kyoto Protocol, based on national programmes, are assessed in this report. It shows which countries are on track, the sectors that are contributing most, the effectiveness of existing policies and measures, and whether additional policies and measures might be required. The report supports the European Commission's annual evaluation report under the EU greenhouse gas monitoring mechanism.


Addressing climate change and the activities causing climate change is a key challenge for the 21st century, for both developed and developing countries, if sustainable development is to be attained. Sustainable development and integrating environmental considerations into European Community policies are key EU goals, expressed in the EU Sustainable Development Strategy and the 6th Environmental Action Programme. The ministerial Councils responsible for sectors covered by the ‘Cardiff Process' (energy, transport, agriculture, etc.) have called for strategies and indicators for integration to be elaborated.

At the global level, the ultimate objective of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is to limit atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to a level that prevents dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system while allowing sustainable economic development. This objective would require substantial (50 to 70 %) reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto Protocol targets, including the burden-sharing targets for EU Member States and individual targets for candidate countries, are only a modest first step towards the longer-term sustainability goals.

The EU wants to see ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by those industrialised countries that have not yet done so, to ensure the Protocol enters into force in 2003. Other important EU objectives are the realisation by 2005 of demonstrable progress towards achieving the Kyoto targets and to cut emissions significantly in the longer term, moving towards a globally equitable distribution of greenhouse gas emissions. Policies and measures to reduce emissions have been or are being implemented in the EU and in candidate countries, in particular for the sectors energy supply and use, transport, industry, waste management and agriculture.

One key tool for measuring the implementation of environmental integration is the regular assessment of progress provided by the EU greenhouse gas monitoring mechanism. The European Commission prepares an annual evaluation report to the Council and European Parliament assessing the actual and projected progress of the EU, and from this year also of candidate countries, towards fulfilling their Kyoto targets. This report, prepared by the EEA and its European Topic Centre on Air and Climate Change, serves to support and complement the Commission's analysis. The report follows the same model as other recent EEA indicator-based reports ( Energy and environment in the EU and Paving the way for enlargement: Indicators of transport and environment integration ).

The report is based on national programmes provided by countries. The monitoring mechanism provides an early warning of the extent to which additional policies and measures are needed. The added value provided by the Agency is in the balanced assessment of this information, benchmarking and comparing countries in a transparent and consistent way and analysing the effectiveness of policies and measures. The information on greenhouse gas emissions is also used in the annual ‘Synthesis' report, which includes information on progress towards sustainable development, and is prepared by the Commission for the European Council meeting each spring.

The EEA report shows a mixed picture. After an initial decrease in the early 1990s, EU greenhouse gas emissions more or less stabilised until 2000. However this apparently favourable situation is misleading because reductions occurred in only a few EU Member States and under special circumstances, some of which will not be repeated. Total EU emissions are currently projected, on the basis of national projections, to decrease slightly more than they have to date but by nothing like enough to achieve the Kyoto target. A recent independent EU-wide projection of carbon dioxide emissions from energy supply and use, prepared for the Commission, shows an even less optimistic picture.

The contribution of the transport sector is especially worrying, with EU greenhouse gas emissions projected to increase by almost 30% between 1990 and 2010. Substantial increases in emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, powerful greenhouse gases that are being used to replace chlorofluorocarbons that damage the ozone layer, are also of concern.

Potentially the gap between projected emissions and the Kyoto targets could be filled by proposed additional national and EU-wide common and coordinated policies and measures. However, much effort will be needed to ensure that these will actually be adopted and implemented in time.

The report also shows several positive developments. These include strong growth in renewables (wind and solar energy), although growth needs to increase further to reach the EU's renewables targets; ongoing improvements in energy efficiency in the energy supply sector and in industry; and continuing reduction of emissions from landfills.

For central and eastern European candidate countries fewer data are available, and in addition their different economic situation needs to be recognised. After the beginning of the transition to market economies, in the early 1990s, these countries experienced an economic downturn. Over the past decade total greenhouse gas emissions have declined substantially, mainly due to changes in, or the closure of, heavily polluting and energyintensive industries. However, emissions from transport increased in the second part of the 1990s. A concern is that high economic growth in future risks causing a strong rise in emissions from transport. Total greenhouse gas emissions in six candidate countries are however projected to decrease further, and all candidate countries have policies and measures in place to reduce them.

There is still a way to go to ensure fully transparent, comparable, consistent, complete and reliable information on both greenhouse gas inventories and projections. A further challenge will be the collection and reporting of additional information required under the Kyoto Protocol, including on emissions and removals by land-use change and forestry (‘carbon sinks'), on internal EU emissions trading and on the Kyoto mechanisms (international emissions trading, joint implementation and the clean development mechanism). Proposals for improvements in data within the EU are being developed, as part of the process of revising the EU monitoring mechanism. Implementation of these will help to achieve the quality of the information needed for conducting proper assessments of progress.

The European Environment Agency will continue to support the development of this information and maintain the official record of progress by the EU, current and future Member States in meeting their emission obligations under the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol, the 6th environmental action programme and the SDS, thus contributing to the move towards more sustainable development.

Gordon McInnes
Interim Executive Director

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