Press Release

EU-15 on target for Kyoto, despite mixed performances

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Press Release Published 13 Oct 2008 Last modified 03 Jun 2016
7 min read
The EU-15 should meet its collective target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 8 % for the period 2008–2012. Part of this decrease will come from emission reduction projects that EU countries will finance in other countries, according to a new report by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Emission performance remains mixed in the EU-15. A few Member States are still off their Kyoto track. However, if the expected outstanding performance of other Member States is taken into account, the EU-15 as a whole should meet its Kyoto commitment.

Prof. Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA

The report, "Greenhouse gas emission trends and projections in Europe 2008" evaluates historic emissions from 1990–2006. It also looks at projections of future emissions during the Kyoto Protocol commitment period (2008–2012).

Overall, projections from Member States for the Kyoto period indicate that the EU-15 could cut emissions by more than 11 % compared to the base-year. This could be achieved by a combination of domestic policies and measures (in force and planned), carbon sink activities and credits for emission reductions outside EU.

"Emission performance remains mixed in the EU-15. A few Member States are still off their Kyoto track. However, if the expected outstanding performance of other Member States is taken into account, the EU-15 as a whole should meet its Kyoto commitment," said Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency. "In addition, the situation would look better for some Member States if their projections took full account of the emission restrictions facing their industries covered by the EU Emission Trading Scheme."

The report also gives a long-term estimate of the emissions situation in Europe. Although emissions are projected to continue decreasing until 2020 in the EU-27, the 20 % reduction target compared to 1990, endorsed by European leaders in 2007, will remain out of reach without the implementation of additional measures, such as the EU energy and climate change package proposed by the European Commission in January 2008.

Data show that the 15 EU Member States sharing a common target under the Kyoto Protocol (EU-15) achieved a reduction of their greenhouse gases by 2.7 % between the base year and 2006. The policies and measures in place as of today will not be sufficient for the EU-15 to meet its Kyoto target, as they are expected to push down emissions between 2006 and 2010 to an average level only 3.6 % below the base-year emissions. If the additional measures planned by 10 Member States were fully implemented and on time, a further reduction of 3.3 % could be obtained. The full effect of the EU Emission Trading Scheme is not reflected in all Member States' projections.

Most EU-15 Member States intend to use carbon sinks — such as planting forests that absorb CO2 — to achieve their Kyoto target. The total amount of carbon dioxide that could be removed annually between 2008 and 2012 is relatively small (1.4 % compared to 1990), although it is somewhat higher than the projections made in 2007.

Ten EU-15 Member States have planned to use the Kyoto Mechanisms (see notes to the editor below) to achieve their targets. This is expected to reduce emissions by a further 3.0 %.

The EEA report singles out the case of those countries that have promised "significant emission reductions in a limited time frame (2006–2010) from policies and measures that have not been implemented yet". In addition, countries which project significant emission reductions from 2006 to meet their target by 2010 will actually have to sustain their efforts and further reduce emissions until 2012. In the end, some Member States might make use of Kyoto mechanisms more intensively than they are currently planning.

The overall EU-15 Kyoto target of – 8 % corresponds to differentiated emission targets for each Member State. In 2006, four EU-15 Member States (France, Greece, Sweden and the United Kingdom) had already reached a level below their Kyoto target. Eight additional EU-15 Member States (Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal) project that they will achieve their targets, but projections from three Member States (Denmark, Italy and Spain) indicate that they will not meet their emission reduction goals. However, the report notes that gaps between targets and predictions are much narrower than the projections made in 2007.

Ten of the 12 Member States that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 have individual reduction targets of 6 or 8 %. Only Cyprus and Malta do not have a target. In the EU-12, the Member States project that they will achieve their Kyoto targets despite projected increases in emissions between 2006 and 2010. Slovenia is the only one of these Member States planning to use the Kyoto mechanisms to meet its target.

The executive summary of the report and the country profiles are already available online. The full report will be published in November.

 Executive summary cover Screenshot EU-27 GHG profile

Overview of progress for EU Member States and other EEA member countries

National projections for 2010 (1)
Planned measures by 2010 EU-15 Member States EU-12 Member States Other EEA member countries
Countries meeting their Kyoto or burden sharing target Existing domestic policies and measures Germany (2)
Greece (2)
Sweden (2)
United Kingdom (2)
Czech Republic (2) Estonia
Poland (2)
Existing and planned domestic policies and measures France (2)
Croatia (2) (3)
Domestic policies and measures Use of Kyoto mechanisms Austria (2)
Finland (2)
Ireland (2) Luxembourg Netherlands (2) Portugal (2)
Slovenia (2) Liechtenstein
Countries not meeting their Kyoto or burden sharing target Domestic policies and measures Use of Kyoto mechanisms Denmark (2)
Italy (2)
Spain (2)


No Kyoto target



(1) National projections provided by 1 June 2008 were taken into account in the report.

(2) Projected net removal from carbon sink activities (land-use change and forestry).

(3) Although not an EEA member country, Croatia is an EU candidate country. Progress towards its Kyoto target is also assessed in the report.

Notes to the editor

  1. EU Kyoto Targets: The EU-15 has a Kyoto target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 8 % from base-year levels (see below) by 2012. Within this overall target, each EU-15 member state has a differentiated reduction target; some should reduce emissions while others are allowed a limited increase. New Member States have individual targets except Cyprus and Malta, which have no targets. Countries can achieve these targets by various means.
  2. Base-year emissions: Under the Kyoto Protocol the GHG emission level in the 'base year' is the relevant starting point for tracking progress of domestic emissions for EU-15 and all Member States which have a Kyoto target. The EU-27 does not have a Kyoto target and an aggregated base year for the EU-27 is therefore not applicable in any discussion of progress towards Kyoto targets. It is important to clarify that the base year is not a 'year' per se, but the emission level from which emission reductions will take place. For carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, 1990 is used as the 'base year' for all EU-15 Member States. But for fluorinated gases, the EU-15 Member States can choose to use the emission levels in 1995 instead. Twelve of the 15 Member States have chosen to use 1995 as their base year for fluorinated gas emissions. In practice, EU-15 base-year emissions can be considered close to 1990 emissions.
  3. EU Emissions Trading Scheme: The EU Emissions Trading Scheme is the European Union's climate change policy tool, which helps industries to cut their CO2 emissions in a cost-effective way. It requires a cap on emissions for all large CO2 emission sources. In the EU-15, the ETS is estimated to cut 3.4 % from base-year emissions.
  4. Domestic policies and measures: Domestic policies and measures take place within the national boundaries of the country and include: the promotion of electricity from renewable energy; improvements in energy efficiency; promotion of biofuels in transport; reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from cars; recovery of gases from landfills and reduction of fluorinated gases.
  5. Kyoto mechanisms: The Kyoto Protocol envisages market-based mechanisms that allow industrialised countries to meet their targets by benefiting from emission reductions in other countries. Under these mechanisms, Member States can trade emissions between themselves or acquire credits from emission-cutting projects they finance abroad. These mechanisms also help the transfer of low-carbon technologies to other countries and promote sustainable development. Greenhouse gas emissions are a global problem and reductions can be made where costs are lowest —— at least in the initial phase of combating climate change. The projected use of Kyoto mechanisms by ten of the EU-15 Member States will reduce emissions by 2010 by 3.0 % from base-year levels. These countries are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. For more information on Kyoto mechanisms, see the UNFCCC website.

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