Press Release

EEA: Current EU measures insufficient to prevent further increase of CO2 emissions after the year 2000

Press Release Published 06 Sep 1996 Last modified 28 Jun 2016
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EEA: Current EU measures insufficient to prevent further increase of CO2 emissions after the year 2000


Copenhagen, 6 September 1996

The European Union is making progress in stabilising emissions of greenhouse gases to date. However, there is considerable uncertainty whether the EU will meet the target of stabilisation of C02 emissions at 1990 levels by the year 2000. Current measures are insufficient to prevent a further increase in CO2 emissions after the year 2000. If the EU wants to achieve its targets of avoiding adverse effects, an accelerated policy is needed. A reduction in the range of at least 30%-55% of all greenhouse gases might be needed in industrialised countries (including the EU) by 2010 compared to 1990 levels, depending on the expectations for the range of emissions in developing countries.

These are the main conclusions of an assessment of the trends, state and outlook of the environmental theme climate change as presented by the European Environment Agency (EEA) on GLOBE's conference Responding to Climate Change in Linz (Austria) today. The assessment is an update of the assessment reported by the EEA in "Environment in the European Union - 1995; Report for the Review of the Fifth Environmental Action Programme (SEAP)". The main conclusions of this present assessment are a confirmation of the conclusions of the report mentioned, which showed that climate change should be one of the key issues on which to focus future policy at the European level. Mitigating climate change will have significant positive side effects for other environmental issues, such as ozone depletion, acidification, air quality and waste management.

Facts and Figures

  • The latest, Second Assessment Report of IPCC (1995) concluded inter alia that "the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate".
  • From 1990, global CO2 emissions did not grow, mainly due to the economic recession/restructuring in the central and eastern European countries. The emissions of CFCs have decreased in this period. However, total greenhouse gas emissions in OECD countries have increased, whereas the UNFCCC target is to stabilise the emissions between 1990 and 2000.
  • The global average annual per capita emissions of CO2 due to the combustion of fossil fuels is at present about 4 tonnes, while in developed and transitional economy countries it is about 10 tonnes (in EU 8.8 tonnes) and in developing countries about 2 tonnes.
  • After a period of steady increase, total emissions of carbon dioxide in the European Union fell slightly (2 %) between 1990 and 1994, mainly due to short-term factors, such as the temporary decrease of industrial and economic growth rates, the restructuring of industry in Germany, the closing of coal mines in the UK, and the conversion of power plants to natural gas.
  • Although CO2 emissions from industry and the energy sector have decreased, emissions from the transport sector show an increase.
  • The atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, inter alia CO2, CH4 and N2O, have grown significantly since pre-industrial times: by about 30 %, 145 % and 15 % respectively. In the same period global mean surface air temperature has increased by between about 0.3 and 0.6 degrees Celcius. 1995 has been reported as the warmest year ever since pre-industrial times.


Achieving the target of stabilisation of EU CO2 emissions at 1990 levels by 2000 seems to be the cornerstone of EU environmental policy. There is, however, great uncertainty about whether the EU will meet this target. Most studies indicate an increase of emissions up to 5 % in 2000, compared to 1990. The main causes for this overshoot are: continuous transport growth, remaining low energy prices, the slow improvement of energy efficiency and the fact that many of the measures in National Programmes will not be completed before 2000.

Current measures are insufficient to prevent a further increase in CO2 emissions after 2000 as a result of the expected growth of production, consumption and transport. However, to achieve the stabilisation of the concentration of greenhouse gases at the lowest possible level in the shortest possible time, substantial emission reductions are necessary. The EU has recently declared that global average temperatures should not exceed 2 degrees Celcius above pre-industrial level. Current EU policies are now focusing on post 2000 target setting, timetables and adequate burden sharing strategies inside the EU.

Global distribution of emissions and timing of actions are the key issues in climate change policy. Present scientific knowledge suggests that to reduce major risks for ecosystems, food production and sensitive coastal areas, emissions in industrialised countries (including the EU) should be reduced by at least 30 to 55 % in 2010 compared to 1990 levels. This (wide) range reflects the expectations regarding the future of developing countries. If these countries develop an accelerated climate change policy and reduce economic and population growth, industrialised countries may follow the bottom limit of the range (minimal 30%). Otherwise, the upper limit (minimal 55%) is required.

For further information, please contact:
Keimpe Wieringa (Tel.. +/45/ or André Jol (Tel.: +/45/ at the EEA.