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EU15 greenhouse gas emissions decline after two years of increases

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Press Release Published 15 Jul 2004 Last modified 28 Jun 2016
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Emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases from the European Union have fallen slightly after two years of increase, taking the EU a small step closer to its target of an 8% cut within the next eight years.


Copenhagen, 15 July 2004

EU15 greenhouse gas emissions decline after two years of increases

Emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases from the European Union have fallen slightly after two years of increase, taking the EU a small step closer to its target of an 8% cut within the next eight years.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the EU's 15 pre-2004 member states dropped by 0.5% between 2001 and 2002, latest estimates compiled by the European Environment Agency show.

The reasons for the decrease include warmer weather in most EU countries which reduced the use of carbon dioxide-producing fossil fuels to heat homes and offices. Slower economic growth in manufacturing industries, which also lowered fossil fuel use, a continuing shift from coal to gas and specific measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were the other main reasons.

Emissions of the six greenhouse gases had risen by 0.2% and 1.3% a year in 2000 and 2001 respectively.

The fall in 2002 took total EU15 emissions to 2.9% below their level in the base year used for calculations - 1990 in most cases.

This represents an improvement on 2001, when emissions were only 2.1% lower than in the base year.

But it still leaves the EU with a long way to go to meet its commitment, under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, to bring emissions in the period 2008-2012 to 8% below their base year level.

Assuming the 8% reduction between the base year and 2008-2012 were to follow a linear path, emissions should have fallen 4.8% by 2002.

On this basis, only four countries are on track to comply with the national targets that all pre-2004 member states have accepted under an agreement to ensure that the EU as a whole fulfils its Kyoto commitment. The four are France, Germany, Sweden and the UK (see annex for details).

On the same basis, the other 11 pre-2004 member states are heading towards overshooting their emission targets, some by a substantial margin. This is the case particularly for Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Austria, Italy, Denmark and Greece.

Spain faces a greater challenge to meet its target than any other member state. Its emissions in 2002 were 39.4% above their base year level -- well over double the 15% increase it is allowed between the base year and 2008-2012 under the EU agreement.

Since 2002, however, several EU and national initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have been approved which could lead to an acceleration of progress towards the Kyoto target.

Chief among these is the EU emissions trading scheme starting next January, which has the potential to bring substantial cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most important greenhouse gas.

In addition, some member states are starting to take advantage of other options for reducing emissions that are available under the Kyoto Protocol.

These allow countries to achieve part of their targets by investing in emissions-saving projects elsewhere in the industrialised or developing world, or by undertaking projects that sequester CO2 in forests or agricultural land.

The Netherlands, for instance, considers it is on track to meet its target of cutting emissions by 6% by 2008-2012 if its planned investments in foreign emissions-saving projects are taken into account. In 2002 its actual emissions were 0.6% above their base year level.

Austria and Denmark have also earmarked considerable budgets for such projects but have not yet provided information on the emissions savings they anticipate.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the 10 countries which joined the EU on 1 May will not count towards the EU reduction target. Under the Kyoto Protocol most of these countries have their own reduction targets of 6% or 8%, to be met by 2008-2012.

The overall 0.5% fall in EU emissions between 2001 and 2002 reflected lower emissions from households and the services sector, mainly due to warmer weather, and from manufacturing industry, particularly the steel industry in Italy and the UK, as the economy slowed.

The reduction was also due to measures that cut nitrous oxide emissions from the chemical industry in France and the UK, as well as measures in most member states to reduce methane emissions from landfills for waste.

However, emissions increased from electricity and heat production and, with the exception of Germany, from road transport.

Over the year Luxembourg, Spain and Portugal saw substantial emission increases of 10.4%, 4.2% and 4.1% respectively. Luxembourg's emission rise was due to the introduction of a new electricity and heat generation plant. Higher fossil fuel-based power generation to compensate for reduced hydro-electric power production due to low river levels was the main reason for the emission increases in Spain and Portugal.

On the positive side, 2002 saw emission reductions of more than 1% in Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and the UK. Germany and the UK dominate the EU-15 emissions picture, accounting for around 40% of total emissions.

EU15 emissions of CO2, which makes up just over four-fifths of all EU greenhouse gas emissions, dropped by 0.3% between 2001 and 2002. CO2 emissions nevertheless stood 1.4% higher than in 1990, largely because of growing emissions from road transport since the early 1990s.

A report detailing the latest emission figures is available at

Notes to editors

  • The 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will control industrialised countries' emissions of 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. The Protocol has yet to achieve the required number of ratifications to enter into force.

  • Under the Protocol, the mechanism by which industrialised countries can invest in emission-saving projects in other industrialised countries is known as Joint Implementation (JI). The mechanism for undertaking such projects in developing countries is known as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). JI, CDM and international emissions trading, which has yet to start, are collectively known as the Kyoto mechanisms.

  • A "burden-sharing" agreement lays down differentiated emission limits for each of the pre-2004 member states with the aim of ensuring that the EU15 meets its overall 8% reduction commitment under the Protocol. The limits are expressed in terms of percentages by which Member States must reduce, or in some cases may maintain or increase, their emissions compared with the base year level. The national commitments are shown in Table 1 in the Annex.

  • The EEA and its Topic Centre on Air and Climate Change compiles and quality-checks the annual emissions inventory for the European Commission from data provided by member states. The Commission has submitted it to the Secretariat of the UNFCCC. The inventory is published as EEA Technical Report No 2/2004 and titled Annual European Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2002 and Inventory Report 2004. Submission to the Secretariat of the UNFCCC.

  • Figures for 2001 and previous years have been revised because of recalculations by member states using improved methodologies for estimating emissions and/or improved data on economic activity. The fall in total EU emissions between 1990 and 2001 has been revised slightly to 2.1% from 2.3% in last year's inventory.

About the EEA

The European Environment Agency is the leading public body in Europe dedicated to providing sound, independent information on the environment to policy-makers and the public. 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 collects and disseminates environment-related data and information. An EU body, the Agency is open to all nations that share its objectives. It currently has 31 member countries: the 25 EU Member States, three EU candidate countries -- Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey - and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. A membership agreement has been initialled with Switzerland.


The following figures and tables give details, for the EU15, of trends in emissions of the six greenhouse gases up to 2002. Emissions from international aviation and shipping, and emissions from/removals by land use change and forestry, are not covered.

Figure 1: Total EU15 greenhouse gas emissions in relation to the Kyoto target

(source: European Environment Agency, 2004)

Note: The linear Kyoto target path is used to evaluate actual progress towards the Kyoto target, not to estimate future emission trends.

Table 1: Greenhouse gas emissions trends and Kyoto Protocol targets for 2008-2012

(source: European Environment Agency, 2004)

1) Base year for CO2, CH4 and N2O is 1990; for the fluorinated gases 13 member states have indicated they will select 1995 as the base year, while Finland and France will use 1990. The EU base year estimates for fluorinated gas emissions are therefore the sum of emissions in 1995 for 13 member states plus emissions in 1990 for Finland and France.

2) For Denmark, the figure in brackets represents the change in emissions since the base year (1990) after adjustment for 1990 electricity trade (import and export). This methodology is used by Denmark to monitor progress towards its national target under the EU "burden sharing" agreement. For the EU emission total, non-adjusted Danish data have been used.

Figure 2: "Distance to target" indicator

(source: European Environment Agency, 2004)


The "distance to target" shown by the bars represents the deviation between a hypothetical target for 2002 and the change in emissions actually achieved by 2002. The hypothetical target for 2002 assumes that the allowed change in a member state's emissions between the base year and 2008-2012 will be achieved in a linear way. Distance to target is expressed in percentage points. The EEA's evaluation of progress is reflected in "smileys" according to the following rating system:

Positive contribution to EU trend: a negative distance-to-target indicator means the member state is below its linear target path
Negative contribution to EU trend: a positive distance-to-target indicator means the member state is above its linear target path

1) Denmark's distance-to-target indicator is +3.5 percentage points if its emissions are adjusted for electricity trade in 1990.

2) The Dutch distance-to-target indicator is --1.4 percentage points, putting it on track to meet its Kyoto target, if anticipated emission savings from use of the Kyoto mechanisms are taken into account. The Netherlands is the only country that has provided detailed information on financial resources earmarked for using the mechanisms, specific projects and quantified emission reductions.



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