Press Release

EU greenhouse gases in 2011: more countries on track to meet Kyoto targets, emissions fall 2.5 %

Change language
Press Release Published 17 Oct 2012 Last modified 03 Jun 2016
4 min read
Photo: © William Hook
Emissions of greenhouse gases in the European Union (EU) fell on average by 2.5 % from 2010 to 2011, although several countries increased emissions. Almost all European countries are individually on track towards their commitments under the Kyoto Protocol compared to last year, according to two reports published today by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

The European Union as a whole will over-deliver on its Kyoto target... Considerable progress has been made since 1997 but all Member States need to deliver on their plans.

Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director

The report ‘Approximated EU greenhouse gas inventory: early estimates for 2011’ gives early estimates of greenhouse gas emissions in the previous year and provides a key input to the report on ‘Greenhouse gas emission trends and projections in Europe 2012’, which assesses progress against the EU’s commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

“The European Union as a whole will over-deliver on its Kyoto target”, Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director said. “In two months’ time we will be at the end of the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol. Considerable progress has been made since 1997 but all Member States need to deliver on their plans. For those EU Member States who have not achieved their target through domestic emission reductions, the Kyoto Protocol’s flexible mechanisms remain available until 2015.”

Emissions reductions in 2011

According to EEA’s estimates, the largest relative emissions decreases from 2010 to 2011 were registered in countries with small to medium shares of total EU greenhouse gas emissions: 13 % in Cyprus, followed by 8 % in Belgium, Finland and Denmark. The United Kingdom made the biggest emission cuts in absolute terms, with a reduction of 36 million tonnes CO2 equivalent (Mt CO2 eq.) in 2011, or 6 %. This was followed by France (24 Mt CO2 eq., 5 %) and Germany (17 Mt CO2 eq., 2 %).

Nine EU Member States increased emissions between 2010 and 2011. Bulgaria increased emissions by 11 %, while Lithuania increased by 3 % and Romanian emissions rose by 2 %. However, these countries have made some of the deepest cuts in emissions overall since 1990.

Although economic factors played a part in certain countries, it is notable that the EU economy overall grew by 1.5% while emissions fell by 2.5%. Most of the countries registering the deepest cuts in emissions had positive growth in 2011.

A warm winter in most countries was a key factor in cutting emissions in 2011, as the demand for fossil fuels for heating was lower than in previous years. The residential and commercial sector – largely outside the scope of the EU emissions trading system (EU ETS) – contributed most to lower emissions in the European Union.

These EEA figures will be further consolidated by mid-2013 in the European Union’s greenhouse gas inventory. The inventory will allow for a detailed analysis of emission trends in EU Member States.

European countries closing in on Kyoto targets

Emissions outside the EU ETS are important, because changes in these non-trading sectors affect whether countries will meet their targets. Overall emissions from the EU economic sectors not covered by the EU ETS were reduced by approximately 3.0 %, whereas emissions under the EU ETS were cut by 1.8% in 2011. In the 15 Member States with a common commitment under the Kyoto Protocol (EU-15), greenhouse gas emissions from the non-trading sectors decreased rapidly by 3.8% between 2010 and 2011. This emission reduction, in combination with foreseen contributions from carbon sinks and the Kyoto Protocol flexible mechanisms, confirms that the EU-15 is on track towards over-delivering on its 8 % reduction Kyoto target. However, for this target to be met all countries will also need to meet individual goals.

With emission caps already set for the economic sectors under the EU ETS, the emission reductions of economic sectors outside the EU ETS in 2012 together with the contributions by carbon sinks will ultimately determine how many Kyoto credits Member States will need to acquire to reach their individual targets by early 2015 at the latest. One of the EEA reports shows that some Member States either still need to develop adequate plans on such acquisitions (Italy) or deliver on existing plans (in particular Austria, Belgium, Portugal and Spain).

Progress towards 2020 targets

The EU has adopted legislation to reduce greenhouse gases by 20 % between 1990 and 2020. The latest figures show emissions in the EU have fallen by 16.5 % and the Union is well on track to meeting this objective. If international aviation is excluded, as is the case with Kyoto Protocol commitments, emissions in the EU have fallen by 17.5% since 1990.

Projections from Member States suggest that EU emissions will continue to fall to 19 % below 1990 levels in 2020, with current policies and measures in place. Less than half of the EU Member States project that their emission levels will fall below their individual 2020 target with only current domestic measures. Although flexibility options allowed under the Effort Sharing Decision could allow Member States to stay on their target paths, most Member States need to step up their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by accelerating the implementation of those additional policies and measures they have already planned.