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Kyoto target within EU’s grasp if all planned measures and projects are implemented, projections show


The European Union will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by slightly more than required under the Kyoto Protocol provided that Member States implement all the policies, measures and third-country projects they are planning and several cut emissions by more than they have to.

Latest projections compiled by the European Environment Agency show that the 15 pre-2004 EU Member States (the EU-15) should cut their total emissions to 7.7% below 1990 levels by 2010 on the basis of existing domestic policies and measures already being implemented and, more importantly, additional policies and measures currently planned.

Plans by six EU-15 Member States to use credits from emissions-saving projects in third countries through the Kyoto Protocol’s "flexible mechanisms" would contribute a further reduction of around 1.1%, taking the total to 8.8% (see Annex to online version at

This is more than the 8% decrease from 1990 levels that the EU-15 has committed itself to achieving by 2008-2012 under the Protocol to combat climate change.

Each of the EU-15 countries also has an agreed, legally binding target for limiting or cutting its own emissions to ensure the overall 8% reduction is met.

But the projections show that at present Denmark, Italy, Portugal and Spain are on course for above-target emissions, some by a wide margin, even with use of the Kyoto mechanisms and additional measures planned. Germany is in danger of slightly exceeding its emission limit on the basis of existing policies and measures.

This means the EU-15 may reach its 8% reduction target only if the projected failure of these Member States to respect their targets is compensated by others making bigger emission cuts than required.

This "over-delivery" cannot be taken for granted. Without it, the EU-15 would achieve a total reduction, including use of the Kyoto mechanisms, of only 6.5%.

On the more positive side, however, the projections do not take account of some important measures that should start to deliver emissions cuts over the next few years, such as the EU emissions trading scheme starting on 1 January 2005, or of plans to sequester carbon in "sinks" such as forests or agricultural land. This means actual emission cuts could be larger than projected.

As the EEA reported in July, the EU-15 has so far cut its overall emissions of the six greenhouse gases controlled under the Kyoto Protocol to 2.9 % below 1990 levels (up to 2002, the most recent year for which complete data are available).

Emissions decreased from most sectors, including energy supply, industry, agriculture and waste management. However, emissions from transport increased by nearly 22 % in the same period.

The latest projections show that existing policies and measures – concrete initiatives already being implemented at EU or national level – will cut EU-15 emissions by only 1.0% below 1990 levels by 2010, or by just 0.6% if Sweden and the UK do not over-deliver on their targets.

The runaway increase in emissions from transport, especially road transport, is the main reason the projected reduction is not bigger.

Additional policies and measures currently in an advanced stage of planning would take the emissions reduction to 7.7%, provided that six Member States over-deliver on their targets: Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Sweden and the UK. Without over-delivery the cut would be only 5.4%, however.

Two of the Protocol’s flexible mechanisms, Joint Implementation and the Clean Development Mechanism, allow industrialised countries to invest in emissions-savings projects in third countries and use the resulting emission credits to help meet their Kyoto targets.

Plans by Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands to make use of this possibility are projected to yield an additional emissions reduction of 1.1%. Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden have already budgeted a total of around 1.3 billion euro for using the mechanisms over the coming years, though Finland and Sweden have not yet decided whether to use them or not.

Together with the expected effects from both existing and additional policies and measures, use of the mechanisms takes the total projected EU-15 emissions cut to 8.8%, assuming over-delivery by some Member States, or 6.5% with no over-delivery.

Plans by nine of the EU-15 Member States for sequestering carbon in sinks are projected to contribute an emissions reduction of around 0.7%. However, this has not been included in the aggregated projections because not all Member States have used an accepted methodology for making such estimates.

The EU-15 target does not apply to the 10 Member States that joined the EU on 1 May this year. Under the Protocol most of these have their own reduction targets of 8% (Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovak Republic and Slovenia) or 6% (Hungary and Poland) compared with a given base year (1990 or earlier). Cyprus and Malta have no targets.

Almost all of the new Member States have seen their emissions decline substantially. In 2002, their combined emissions stood 33 % below the base-year level, mainly due to the introduction of market economies and the consequent restructuring or closure of heavily polluting and energy-intensive industries. However, greenhouse gas emissions from transport exceeded base-year levels by 12%.

All new Member States except Slovenia project meeting or even over-complying with their Kyoto targets by 2010 on the basis of existing domestic policies and measures, even though in most countries emissions will increase between now and then.

Slovenia projects that it will achieve its Kyoto target with the help of additional policies and measures, including carbon sequestration from land-use changes and forestry.

Tony Carritt | alfa
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