Press Release

Domestic measures taken or planned so far are insufficient to meet EU climate emissions targets, projections show

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Press Release Published 02 Dec 2003 Last modified 28 Jun 2016
8 min read
The European Union and many of its Member States will fail to meet their Kyoto Protocol targets for limiting greenhouse gas emissions on the basis of the domestic policies and measures implemented or planned so far, according to new projections compiled by the European Environment Agency.


Copenhagen, 2 December 2003

Domestic measures taken or planned so far are insufficient to meet EU climate emissions targets, projections show

The European Union and many of its Member States will fail to meet their Kyoto Protocol targets for limiting greenhouse gas emissions on the basis of the domestic policies and measures implemented or planned so far, according to new projections compiled by the European Environment Agency.

The main reason is a runaway increase in emissions from transport, especially road transport.

However, the projections do not include any effects from several of the domestic policies and measures being developed under the European Commission-led European Climate Change Programme (ECCP). Among these is the EU emissions trading scheme due to start in 2005, a key initiative with the potential to deliver substantial additional emission cuts.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, the 15-nation EU must cut its overall emissions of six greenhouse gases, widely considered to be contributing to global climate change, to 8 % below their 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012.

An internal EU “burden-sharing” agreement also requires each Member State to meet a binding individual target for limiting or reducing its national emissions.

As reported by the EEA in May 2003, the EU has so far cut its overall emissions to 2.3 % below 1990 levels (up to 2001, the most recent year for which complete data are available).

But the latest projections show that existing domestic policies and measures – concrete initiatives already being implemented at EU or national level – 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 this result assumes that Sweden and the United Kingdom will do better than required, although the use of their ‘surpluses’ to assist Member States with ‘deficits’ cannot be taken for granted. If these two countries did no more than meet their agreed targets, the EU reduction would be just 0.2 %.

On the basis of existing domestic policies and measures alone, all other Member States, including Germany, the EU’s biggest emitter, would miss their Kyoto targets. Denmark, Spain, Ireland, Austria and Belgium would all exceed theirs by more than 20 % (see detailed figures in Annex).

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.

The outlook is somewhat brighter when the additional domestic policies and measures being planned in 11 Member States, mainly in the energy sector, are brought into the picture.

The additional initiatives – assuming they are implemented and have the effects anticipated - are projected to bring emission cuts of about 6.7 % on top of the 0.5 % reduction from existing policies and measures, giving an overall decrease of about 7.2 %.

This is still nearly 1 % short of the EU target, however. Also, it assumes that Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Sweden and, in particular, the UK will limit or reduce their emissions by more than their targets require. If these six countries did not “over-deliver,” the total EU reduction would be only 5.1 %, leaving a gap of 2.9% to the target.

Even with their additional domestic policies and measures, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain project that their emissions in 2010 will still be higher than allowed – by more than 10 % in the cases of Denmark, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands. Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal and Sweden have yet to provide information on any additional measures.

The EU emissions trading scheme is considered one of the most important domestic policies and measures planned, but the projections do not assume any emissions cuts from it at this stage because Member States have not yet quantified these.

The same goes for international emissions trading, one of the three so-called “Kyoto mechanisms” that countries can use to reach their targets.

The projections focus on domestic policies and measures because EU Member States are not yet legally required to report on their plans to use international trading or the other two Kyoto mechanisms, Joint Implementation (JI) and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), to meet their targets.

There is currently also no legal requirement for Member States to report on plans to use the option of offsetting part of their emissions through sequestration of carbon in “sinks” such as forests and agricultural land.

Eight Member States have nevertheless provided information on their plans indicating that, overall, very limited use of these possibilities is foreseen at present.

On the basis of this information, the total EU emissions reduction from JI and CDM is currently projected at 0.5 %. This is almost entirely due to projects involving the Netherlands. When these projects are taken into account, the Netherlands is projected approximately to meet its 6 % emission reduction target.

Portugal projects a small emission saving from JI and CDM as well, while Austria, Finland and Sweden have also earmarked financial resources for using the mechanisms but have not yet identified specific projects or savings.

The EU-wide emission cut from using carbon “sinks” is preliminarily projected at around 0.3%.

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.

On the basis of existing domestic policies and measures, total greenhouse gas 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.

All other sectors are projected to reduce their emissions except the energy supply and use sector, where a 2 % increase from 1990 levels in 2010 is projected on the basis of existing policies and measures. However, this rise becomes a 6 % fall when the additional policies and measures planned are taken into account.

The EU’s prospects for achieving its Kyoto target will not be affected by the arrival next May of 10 new Member States, several of which are projected to reduce emissions by much more than their own Kyoto targets require. The EU reduction commitment and the burden-sharing agreement cover only the 15 current members and the new countries’ emissions will not be included in them.

The latest projections are published in the EEA report Greenhouse gas emission trends and projections in Europe 2003. A summary of the report is published on the EEA website at

Notes for Editors

  • The Kyoto Protocol, which has not yet entered force, will control industrialised countries’ emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), plus three fluorinated industrial gases: hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). The EU is responsible for around 24% of industrialised countries’ man-made emissions of the six gases.
  • Domestic policies and measures are regulatory, negotiated or economic instruments at EU or national level which have the effect of reducing emissions. Examples include energy-efficiency legislation, the voluntary agreement between the European Commission and the car industry on reducing CO2 emissions from new passenger cars, energy/carbon taxes and the internal EU emissions trading scheme.
  • Under the Kyoto Protocol, Joint Implementation (JI) allows industrialised countries investing in emissions-saving projects in other industrialised countries to count those savings towards their own emissions targets. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) allows industrialised countries investing in developing countries to do the same.
  • The report, prepared by the EEA and its Topic Centre on Air and Climate Change, is intended to support, complement and provide additional analysis for the European Commission’s annual progress report under the EU greenhouse gas emissions monitoring mechanism (Council Decision 1999/296/EC). The Commission’s fourth report will be published at

About the EEA

The European Environment Agency is the main source of information used by the European Union and its Member States in developing environment policies. The Agency aims to support sustainable development and to help achieve significant and measurable improvement in Europe’s environment through the provision of timely, targeted, relevant and reliable information to policy-making agents and the public. Established by the EU in 1990 and operational in Copenhagen since 1994, the EEA is the hub of the European environment information and observation network (Eionet), a network of around 300 bodies across Europe through which it both collects and disseminates environment-related data and information.

The Agency, which is open to all nations that share its objectives, currently has 31 member countries. These are the 15 EU Member States; Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, which are members of the European Economic Area; and the 13 EU acceding and candidate countries, namely Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, the Slovak Republic and Turkey. The EEA is the first EU body to take in the acceding and candidate countries. Negotiations on EEA membership are also under way with Switzerland.


EU and Member States’ Kyoto Protocol (burden-sharing) targets compared with emissions projections to 2010


Emissions target for 2008-2012 under EU burden-sharing agreement

Change of emissions in 2001 compard with base year

Projected emissions change in 2010 based on existing domestic policies & measures

Gap between burden-sharing target and projected emissions in 2010 based on existing domestic policies and measures (see note 2)

Gap between burden-sharing target and projected emissions in 2010 based on both existing and additional domestic policies and measures (see note 2)


(% of base year emissions)

(% of base year emissions)

(in % of base year emissions)

(in % of base year emissions)

(in % of base year emissions)















-0.2 % (-9.0) 1




















no data provided
























no data provided












no data provided











no data provided







EU total






EU total if no over-delivery by MS







1) For Denmark, data that reflect adjustments for variations in electricity trade in 1990 are given in brackets.
2) A positive number means a short-fall and a negative number means an over-delivery (compared with the target)

Gap (over-delivery or shortfall) between Kyoto targets and projections to 2010 based on existing and additional domestic policies and measures


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