8. Climate change

indicator policy issue DPSIR assessment
emission of greenhouse gases are the Kyoto Protocol targets within reach? pressure
carbon dioxide emissions how are the emissions of each of the gases developing, and which sectors contribute? pressure
methane emissions - " - pressure
nitrous oxide emissions - " - pressure
fluorocarbon emissions - " - pressure
global and European average temperatures is the development of average temperature staying below provisional 'sustainable targets'? impact

Climate change is widely recognised as a serious potential threat to the world’s environment. The problem is being addressed through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and has been identified by the EU as one of the key environmental themes to be tackled. However, total greenhouse gas emissions have increased since 1990 in most EEA member countries and are projected to increase in the EU, under a baseline scenario, by 6 % between 1990 and 2010. Additional policies and measures are required to achieve the Kyoto Protocol targets. Substantial additional reductions in global emission reductions will be needed to reach potentially ‘sustainable’ temperature levels and concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon. However, over the past century atmospheric concentrations of anthropogenic greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide (CO2, methane, nitrous oxide and halogenated compounds such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride — have risen, and a considerable increase, in historic terms,in global mean temperatures has been observed. There is increasing evidence that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are causing an enhanced greenhouse effect. This takes the form of global warming, leading to climate change (IPCC, 1996). Climate change is expected to have widespread consequences, including: sea-level rise and possible flooding of low-lying areas; melting of glaciers and sea ice; changes in rainfall patterns with implications for floods and droughts; and more climatic extremes (especially high temperatures). These effects will have major impacts on ecosystems, health, water resources and key economic sectors such as agriculture.

Globally, carbon dioxide is estimated to have made the biggest contribution to global warming (64 %), followed by methane (20 %), nitrous oxide (6 %) and halogenated compounds (10 %) (IPCC, 1996). Tropospheric ozone (see Chapter 10) also adds to global warming. Aerosols can have a cooling effect, partly offsetting global warming, but this effect is regional and short-lived. As well as contributing to global warming, CFCs are also ozone-depleting substances (see Chapter 9).

The EU Kyoto Protocol target for 2008-2012 requires a reduction of emissions of six greenhouse gases by 8 % from 1990 levels. Total EU emissions of the three main greenhouse gases have fallen by 1 % from 1990 to 1996 (Figure 8.1). Carbon dioxide makes the largest contribution to EU emissions (79 %), followed by methane (11 %) and nitrous oxide (9 %). The Kyoto Protocol target also includes HFCs, PFCs and sulphur hexafluoride; emissions of these substances are not shown in Figure 8.1 owing to lack of data from all EU Member States. Initial estimates indicate that these gases together amount to about 1 % of total EU greenhouse gas emissions.

Figure 8.1: Total EU emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide

Source: EEA
Note: Global warming potentials used: carbon dioxide 1, methane 21, and nitrous oxide 310.

Total EU greenhouse gas emissions have fallen slightly from 1990 (but only in a few Member States), while GDP has risen. However, emissions are projected to increase by 6 % between 1990 and 2010, making additional policies and measures necessary to achieve the Kyoto Protocol target.

The dominant human activity or driving force for climate change is fossil-fuel combustion (due to its carbon dioxide emissions). Other activities that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions are agriculture, land-use changes (including deforestation), waste disposal to landfills and industrial processes such as cement production, refrigeration, foam blowing and solvent use.

Gases and particles emitted from aircraft directly to the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere also contribute to climate change. In 1992, carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft produced 2 % of total anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions (accounting for around 13 % of all global carbon dioxide emissions from transport). Global aviation has grown rapidly over the past 30 years. This trend is expected to continue with passenger air travel increasing by 5 % per year and total aviation fuel use (including passenger, freight and military) by 3 % per year between 1990 and 2015 (IPCC, 1999). Under the IPCC baseline scenario, carbon dioxide emissions from global aviation are expected to grow by a factor of about three by 2050. The contribution of aircraft to global warming is expected to increase from 3.5 % in 1992 to 5 % by 2050.

8.1. Greenhouse gas policy update

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro when developed countries made a commitment to aim to return their emissions of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol to 1990 levels by 2000. By September 1999, 180 countries or groups of countries had ratified the Convention, including the EU, all 15 Member States and most other European countries.

At the Third Conference of the Parties of UNFCCC held in Kyoto in December 1997, developed countries agreed to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, HFCs, PFCs and sulphur hexafluoride by an overall 5 % from 1990 levels by 2008-2012 (expressed in carbon dioxide equivalents using global warming potentials with a 100-year time horizon). The amount each country is allowed to emit between 2008 and 2012 is determined by its carbon dioxide equivalent emissions of the six greenhouse gases in the base year 1990 (the base year is 1990 or 1995 for HFCs, PFCs and sulphur hexafluoride). Each Party is required to make demonstrable progress in achieving its commitments by 2005.

According to the Kyoto Protocol, net changes in carbon stocks due to changes in forest area since 1990 (so-called ‘Kyoto forests’) and some other carbon sinks can be used to meet reduction targets. However, the Parties still have to agree relevant definitions and accounting rules, particularly for other types of carbon sinks such as soil.

By September 1999, 84 Parties to the UNFCCC – including the EU and the US – had signed the Kyoto Protocol. However, only 16 Parties have ratified it and, as yet, no major developed country has ratified. The Protocol has therefore not yet entered into force. To become binding international law, it has to be ratified by 55 Parties and the developed countries that have ratified must account for at least 55 % of total carbon dioxide emissions from developed countries in 1990.

The EU and its Member States are committed to reducing emissions by 8 % below the 1990 level and the central and eastern European (CEE) countries to reductions of 0-8 %. In June 1998, a system of ‘burden sharing’ or ‘target sharing’ was agreed by EU Member States (European Commission, 1998). Table 8.1 summarises the requirements of this agreement.

An emission level of about 3 840 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents is required by 2008-2012 to meet the EU target (see Table 8.1). To reach this target, a reduction of almost 600 million tonnes is required from the estimated projected emissions for 2010 under a baseline scenario of 4 420 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (see Section 8.2.1).

Table 8.1: Total emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide from EU Member States and the EU ‘burden-sharing’ agreement
  Emissions 1990 (million tonnes CO2 equivalent) Emissions 1996 (million tonnes CO2 equivalent) % change 1990-1996 Burden sharing 2008-2012 (% from 1990) Burden sharing annual emissions 2008-2012 (million tonnes CO2 equivalent)
Austria 74 76 3 -13 64
Belgium 137 153 12 -7.5 127
Denmark 70 90 29 -21 55
Finland 70 78 11 0 70
France 546 550 0 0 546
Germany 1 201 1 063 -11 -21 949
Greece 104 111 7 25 130
Ireland 57 60 5 13 64
Italy 521 552 6 -6.5 487
Luxembourg 14 8 -43 -28 10
Netherlands 209 233 12 -6 196
Portugal 68 77 13 27 87
Spain 301 311 3 15 347
Sweden 69 77 11 4 72
UK 726 684 -6 -12.5 636
EU total 4 167 4 123 - 1 -8 3 840
Source: UNFCC, 1998; UNFCCC, 1999a; EEA, 1999b

Note: HFCs, PFCs and sulphur hexafluoride are excluded due to lack of data. The values for Denmark are not adjusted for imports/exports of electricity for Denmark. The burden-sharing target for Denmark applies to adjusted emission estimates (base year and commitment years) and, if taken into account, will give the following estimates for Denmark: 76 million tonnes for both 1990 and 1996. Emissions and removals due to land-use change and forestry (LUCF) are excluded both from this table and elsewhere in the chapter because of major uncertainty in their estimates.

The Kyoto Protocol introduced three important new ‘flexibility mechanisms’ (the so-called Kyoto Mechanisms) to help reach the targets. These mechanisms include emissions trading between developed countries, joint implementation among developed countries, and co-operation between developed and developing countries in a ‘clean-development mechanism’.

Emissions trading allows Parties that reduce their greenhouse gas emissions below their assigned amount to sell part of their emission allowance to other Parties. However, some countries, e.g. Russia, could have large quantities of unused assigned amounts of emissions available for trading. This issue is often referred to as trading in ‘hot air’, since it could imply that no real reduction in emissions would occur. The extent of this problem is uncertain as it depends on the economic development of countries like Russia. Some Member States have announced plans to use the Kyoto Mechanisms to reach their commitments. For example, the Netherlands has indicated it expects to fulfil 50 % of its required emission reductions in this way. To ensure that domestic measures are also taken to limit emissions, the EU Council has proposed a numerical limit on the use of Kyoto mechanisms (European Commission, 1999a).

The Buenos Aires Action Plan adopted at the fourth Conference of Parties in November 1998 (UNFCCC, 1999b) includes work to be finalised in 2000 on: elaborating the practicalities of the Kyoto Mechanisms; technology transfer to developing countries; and financial mechanisms to help developing countries combat the adverse effects of climate change (e.g. through adaptation measures). Work has progressed slowly since then owing to the many complications. These were discussed at the fifth Conference of Parties in Bonn in November 1999, which set the ambitious goal of finalising much of the work plan at the next conference in the Netherlands in November 2000.

8.2. Current and future trends in greenhouse gas emissions in EEA member countries

8.2.1. Total greenhouse gases
Total EU emissions of the three main greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) fell by 1 % between 1990 to 1996, while GDP increased substantially (see Figure 8.1, Figure 8.2 and Table 8.1). This suggests that there has been some de-coupling between emissions and economic growth. The reasons for the small decrease are described below for the individual gases concerned. Greenhouse gas emissions from EU Member States made up 25 % of total emissions from developed countries in 1990 (EEA, 1999b; UNFCCC, 1998; UNFCCC, 1999a).

Figure 8.2 shows the percentage change in total emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide (weighted according to global warming potential) compared with individual country targets to meet the Kyoto Protocol. Between 1990 and 1996, total greenhouse gas emissions fell in only three EEA member countries (Germany, Luxembourg and the UK).

Figure 8.2: Percentage change in total emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide in EEA member countries since 1990 and their Kyoto Protocol targets

Source: EEA
Notes: Global-warming potentials used: carbon dioxide 1, methane 21, and nitrous oxide 310.

In Iceland, Norway and most EU Member States, greenhouse gas emissions have increased since 1990. To achieve the Kyoto Protocol targets, substantial reductions in emissions of all six greenhouse gases are required in most EEA member countries.

Total EU emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide in 2010 are projected, under a baseline scenario, to be about 6 % higher than 1990 levels at about 4 420 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (EEA, 1999a). This baseline scenario assumes future developments of the main socio-economic parameters (such as GDP) and energy use according to a pre-Kyoto ‘business-as-usual’ scenario prepared by the European Commission. The scenario also assumes the implementation of policies and measures agreed by August 1997.

The 8 % reduction in EU emissions demanded by the Kyoto Protocol target equates to total emissions of the three main greenhouse gases by 2008-2012 of about 3 840 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (see Table 8.1). This requires a decrease of almost 600 million tonnes from the projected baseline scenario emissions for 2010 (EEA, 1999a). More policies and measures therefore need to be implemented in the EU to achieve the Kyoto Protocol target than were in place in 1997.

8.2.2. Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide emissions from EU Member States decreased initially in the early 1990s, but started to increase again in 1994 (Figure 8.3). The energy sector (mainly power and heat generation) is the main contributor to EU emissions (32 %), followed by transport (22 %) and industry (21 %). Emissions in 1996 were at almost the same level as 1990 due to decreases in Germany, Luxembourg and the UK. Emissions have increased significantly in all other Member States. Between 1990 and 1996, the largest emission reduction took place in Germany, mainly due to economic restructuring in former East Germany and increased energy efficiency. The substantial UK reduction in emissions was primarily caused by a switch from coal to natural gas (natural gas produces lower emissions per unit of energy used). Emission trends in EEA member countries are shown in Table 8.2.

Carbon dioxide emission trends can be compared with economic development during the same period. Between 1990 and 1996, GDP in the EU grew by about 9 % (almost 6 % between 1990 and 1995). Apart from the oil crisis in the early 1980s, the five-year average GDP growth in the period 1960 to 1990 was about 16 %. This suggests that the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions between 1990 and 1996 is partly due to the relatively low GDP growth in this period, partly to an increase in energy efficiency, and partly to the effects of policies and measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In the fifth environmental action programme (5EAP), the EU set a target of stabilising carbon dioxide emissions at 1990 levels by 2000. EU carbon dioxide emissions in 2000 are predicted to be ± 2 % the 1990 level (EEA, 1999a and 1999b).

Figure 8.3: Total EU carbon dioxide emissions

Source: EEA
Note: The 2000 target is the fifth environmental action programme target of stabilising carbon dioxide emissions at 1990 levels by 2000.

Total EU carbon dioxide emissions in 1996 were in line with the 5EAP target of stabilising emissions at 1990 levels by 2000. From 1990 to 1996, emissions decreased substantially only in Germany and the UK and then due to specific circumstances. Total EU emissions are projected to increase by 8 % between 1990 and 2010, with the largest increase coming from the transport sector.

Table 8.2: Carbon dioxide emissions in EEA member countries
  1990(million tonnes CO2 equivalent) 1996(million tonnes CO2 equivalent) Change(%)
Austria 62 64 3
Belgium 115 130 13
Denmark 53 74 40
Finland 59 66 12
France 396 409 3
Germany 1 015 919 -9
Greece 85 92 8
Ireland 31 35 13
Italy 431 448 4
Luxembourg 13 7 -47
Netherlands 161 186 15
Portugal 47 51 8
Spain 226 229 1
Sweden 55 63 14
UK 584 567 -4
EU total 3 333 3 340 0
Iceland 2.1 2.3 10
Norway 35 41 17
Source: UNFCCC, 1998; UNFCC, 1999a; EEA

Notes: If electricity import/export corrections were taken into account, the estimates for Denmark would be 59 million tonnes in 1990 and 61 million tonnes in 1996. Emissions from land-use change and forestry (LUCF) are included, but removals are excluded (see Table 8.1).

The projected EU carbon dioxide emissions for 2010 based on the pre-Kyoto baseline scenario are about 8 % above the 1990 level (EEA, 1999a). Transport is the fastest-growing sector, with emissions forecast to increase by 39 % above the 1990 level by 2010. The negotiated agreement with the car industry to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new passenger cars is not included in the pre-Kyoto baseline scenario. In contrast, industrial carbon dioxide emissions are forecast to decrease by 15 % between 1990 and 2010. Emissions from the domestic/tertiary sector are projected to remain stable due to changes in the market for electrical and heating equipment. Emissions in the power/heat production sector are projected to remain at 1990 levels until 2010, when some increase is expected due to infrastructure changes, such as the retirement of nuclear power plants at the end of their lifetime. Only Germany, Luxembourg and the UK and are projected to have lower carbon dioxide emissions in 2010 than in 1990.

Both in 1995 and in the baseline scenario for 2010, about 50 % of carbon dioxide emissions are related to the combustion of liquid fuels. The relatively small increase (+8 %) in total carbon dioxide emissions compared with the larger projected increase in total energy consumption between 1995 and 2010 is explained by the significant shift that is occurring from solid to gaseous fuels.

8.2.3. Methane
Total EU methane emissions fell by 12 % between 1990 and 1996 (Figure 8.4), but with considerable variation between Member States. Emissions from Germany and the UK fell by 36 % and 23 % respectively, but large increases occurred in Italy and Spain.

The main sources of methane emissions in the EU during this period were: agriculture (45 %), particularly from ruminant animals (enteric fermentation and manure management); waste treatment and disposal (36 %); and other sources (17 %), mainly coal mining and leakage from natural gas distribution networks. Estimates for methane emissions are much more uncertain than those for carbon dioxide emissions as the main sources (agriculture and waste treatment) are not well quantified.

The largest reduction in emissions appears to be due to the decline of deep mining in the UK – and to some extent in Germany – and the replacement of old gas-distribution pipework. Agricultural emissions also fell, mainly due to a reduction in the number of dairy cows (AEA, 1998a).

Methane emissions in EU Member States are projected, under a baseline scenario, to decrease by 8 % between 1990 and 2010 (EEA, 1999a; AEA, 1998a), mainly due to a large reduction in emissions from coal mining (as coal production declines) and from agriculture (as cattle numbers fall). Reductions from the waste sector, for example through measures to collect and remove landfill gas, are not included in this baseline scenario.

Figure 8.4: Total EU emissions of methane

Source: EEA
Notes: ‘Other’ includes coal mining and leaks from natural gas distribution networks and waste treatment/disposal.

Total EU methane emissions have fallen since 1990, but mainly due to specific circumstances in Germany and the UK. Emissions are projected to decrease by 8 % between 1990 and 2010.

8.2.4. Nitrous oxide
Total EU nitrous oxide emissions were 2 % lower in 1996 than in 1990 (Figure 8.5). However, this trend varies considerably between Member States. The main sources of nitrous oxide emissions in the EU are: fertilised agricultural land (46 %); industry (28 %), particularly adipic acid and nitric acid manufacture; transport (5 %); and energy (5 %). Emissions from the transport sector are due to three-way catalysts in passenger cars which reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, but as a side-effect, increase nitrous oxide emissions. Emissions data for nitrous oxide is much more uncertain than for carbon dioxide and methane primarily because the major source (agriculture) is not well quantified.

The largest reductions appear to be due to falling production levels for adipic and nitric acid in industry and less use of inorganic nitrogenous fertilisers in agriculture. These reductions were partly offset by an increase in transport emissions as the number of cars with catalytic converters increased (AEA, 1998b).

Total EU nitrous oxide emissions are projected, under a baseline scenario, to increase by 9 % between 1990 and 2010 (Ecofys, 1998b; EEA, 1999a), mainly due to increases in emissions from cars with catalytic converters. In this baseline scenario, no reductions are assumed from the industrial sector and only minor reductions from agriculture.

Figure 8.5: Total EU emissions of nitrous oxide

Source: EEA

Since 1990, total EU nitrous oxide emissions have decreased slightly. Emissions are projected to increase by 9 % between 1990 and 2010.

8.2.5. Fluorocarbons
Under the Kyoto Protocol, countries can select either 1990 or 1995 as the base year for fluorocarbon emission reduction targets. Most EU Member States are expected to choose 1995.

Total EU fluorocarbon emissions in 1995 are difficult to estimate as not all EU Member States provided data. Initial estimates suggest that total EU emissions in 1995 of the three groups of Kyoto Protocol fluorocarbon gases (HFCs, PFCs and sulphur hexafluoride) are about 58 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (EEA, 1999a). This is about 1 % of total EU emissions of total carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions in 1990 in terms of carbon dioxide equivalents (Ecofys, 1998a).

The largest contribution comes from HFCs (64 %), followed by sulphur hexafluoride (25 %). At present, HFCs are mainly emitted as a by-product during the production of the hydrochlorofluorocarbon, HCFC-22. HCFCs are not controlled under the Kyoto Protocol, but under the Montreal Protocol for ozone-depleting substances (Chapter 9). The most important source of sulphur hexafluoride emissions is its use in switches in electricity distribution. PFC emissions arise mainly from production processes in the primary aluminium and the electronics industry.

An indicative emission projection for the halogenated gases has been prepared for the European Commission using the limited information available and assuming a baseline scenario (Ecofys, 1998a; March Consulting Group, 1998). In 2010, total EU fluorocarbon emissions are projected to be about 82 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents – an increase of about 40 % compared with 1995 emissions of 58 million tonnes. The contribution from HFCs is expected to increase to 79 %, while the contributions from sulphur hexafluoride and PFCs are expected to decrease to 15 % and 6 % respectively by 2010. The large increase in HFC emissions is due to the use of HFCs as substitutes for CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances whose use is being phased out (see Chapter 9).

Fluorocarbon emissions are currently 1 % of total EU greenhouse emissions. By 2010, they are projected to increase by 40 % from 1990 levels.

8.3. Temperature increase as an indication of climate change

Between 1856 and 1998, yearly deviations from the 1960-1990 global and European mean temperature (Figure 8.6) show an increase of 0.3-0.6°C. The natural variations for Europe are larger than those for the world average.

Globally, 1998 was the warmest year on record and 1997 the warmest before that. This is partly due to the 1997-1998 El Niño/Southern Oscillation, the largest on record. This phenomenon is a cycle of natural fluctuations of Pacific Ocean temperatures, resulting in large-scale changes in tropical rainfall and wind patterns. Partly because sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific have moved into a cool El Niño phase, the annual global mean surface temperature in 1999 will, as expected, be substantially lower than the record year of 1998. However, it is still likely to be one of the highest 10 on record (DETR, 1999).

Under the mid-range (‘business-as-usual’) scenario prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global carbon dioxide emissions are forecast to increase from 1990 levels by about a factor of two by 2050 and a factor of three by 2100 (IPCC, 1996). Increases in methane and nitrous oxide emissions are projected to be smaller, but still substantial. On this basis, the IPCC projects a 2°C increase in global mean temperature by 2100 compared with 1990 (the uncertainty range is 1-3.5°C). Large regional variations are, however, possible.

There is no scientific consensus on sustainable target values for the main indicators of the impact of climate change. The EU has adopted a provisional ‘sustainable’ target of a global average temperature increase of 2oC above the pre-industrial level (European Community, 1996). This is below the IPCC projections of a temperature increase of 2°C by 2100 compared to 1990. Another proposed provisional ‘sustainable’ target is a 0.1°C temperature rise per decade (Leemans & Hootsman, 1998). However, the IPCC projected rate of warming is more than double this provisional ‘sustainable’ target. Under the IPCC’s baseline emission scenario prepared in 1996, stable potentially ‘sustainable’ atmospheric concentrations of the main greenhouse gases are unlikely to be realised by 2100. A reduction in global carbon dioxide emissions of 50-70 % would be needed to stabilise carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere at 1990 levels by 2100.

Estimating the future of climate change using scenarios has various sources of uncertainty. These include: assumptions about socio-economic and sectoral developments; anticipated potential reductions in greenhouse gas emissions; the process of transforming emissions into climate change; and poorly understood processes in current climate models. The latest scientific knowledge on climate change will be described in the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report, which is expected to be published in 2000/2001.

Figure 8.6: Observed global and European annual mean temperature deviations, 1856-1998

Source: CRU, 1998
Notes: Temperature plotted as the variation from the 1960-1990 mean. The bars show the annual average as the variation from the 1960-1990 mean and the line the 10-year smoothed trend.

Global mean temperature has increased by about 0.3-0.6°C over the past 100 years. Climate models estimate temperature increases, above 1990 levels, of about 2°C by the year 2100, thus exceeding the EU’s provisional sustainability target.

8.4. Current policies and measures

A number of existing EU and Member State policies and measures aim to either reduce greenhouse gas emissions or to enhance carbon sinks.

These include:

  • energy/carbon dioxide taxes in various Member States (no agreement has been reached on a comprehensive EU-wide energy products tax);
  • a negotiated agreement between the European Commission and the car industry to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new passenger cars by 25 % between 1995 and 2008;
  • the requirement of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive to use Best Available Technology and to improve energy efficiency;
  • the requirement of the Landfill Directive to reduce the amount of organic waste landfilled (thus reducing methane emissions)and to collect landfill gas for energy use;
  • EU energy-efficiency demonstration programmes (ALTERNER, SAVE and JOULE-THEMIE);
  • several Directives on energy-efficiency requirements for appliances and various agreements with manufacturers and importers on minimum energy standards.

8.5. Possible future responses

According to the latest estimates, the additional effort required to meet the EU’s Kyoto Protocol target is some 600 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (see Section 8.2.1; EEA, 1999a; European Commission, 1999b). An important element of EU climate-change policy will be the cost-effectiveness of different policies and measures. Other important criteria for the selection and implementation of measures include political acceptability, fairness (e.g. between sectors), social barriers and industrial competitiveness.

As noted in the Communication on the preparations for implementing the Kyoto Protocol, common and coordinated policies and measures at Community level are expected to be necessary to complement national initiatives (European Commission, 1999b). Possible new policies and measures, additional to those already agreed, are summarised in Table 8.3. Some of these are already being planned or implemented by various Member States.

The potential reduction from national and Community measures could be more than sufficient to achieve the EU’s Kyoto target (European Commission, 1999b). Over half the required reductions could be achieved at low cost (less that EUR 5 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalents). However, the distribution of costs will vary significantly between economic sectors and Member States.

According to a preliminary analysis (EEA, 1999b; EEA, 1999c), the total forest carbon sink for EU Member States is 1-10 million tonnes of carbon per year (0.1-1 % of total EU carbon dioxide emissions). Forest carbon sinks can therefore only form a minor part of the policies and measures needed to achieve Kyoto Protocol commitments. However, the potential for carbon sequestration by forests is more significant in some countries than in others.

Table 8.3 Possible future EU policies and measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Greenhouse gas Sector Policies and measures Linked with indicator
Carbon dioxide Transport

Passenger cars: negotiate agreements with manufacturers in Japan and Korea, and companies not members of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA)

Freight transport by road: intermodal freight transport; fair and efficient pricing

Aircraft: taxation of fuel; operational measures


Improved energy efficiency in industry through environmental agreements

More use of combined heat and power (CHP) generation

Fig. 7.1.


Fig. 4.6.


Reduce/remove fossil fuel subsidies

More fuel switching

Greater energy efficiency

More use of combined heat and power (CHP) generation

Greater share of renewables in primary energy consumption (i.e. 12 % in 2010)


Fig. 3.3.

Fig. 3.2.


Fig. 4.6.

Fig. 3.4.

  Household Extend energy efficiency standards to other equipment  
Methane Agriculture Improved manure management and feed conversion efficiency Fig. 6.1.
  Waste Recover energy from landfill gas energy recovery. Reduce amounts of biodegradable waste going to landfill (already a requirement of the Landfill Directive) Fig. 11.3.
  Energy Reduce natural gas leakage Fig 3.1.
Nitrous oxide Agriculture Reduce fertiliser application and improve manure management Fig. 6.3.
  Industry Install Best Available Technology (BAT) for adipic acid and nitric acid production  
  Transport Reduce emissions from passenger car catalysts  
Fluorocarbons Industry

Reduce HFC formation as a by-product of HCFC-22 production

Specific measures to reduce other fluorocarbon emissions


8.6. Indicator development

The main requirement is to improve the reliability of time series and to reduce uncertainty in estimates of greenhouse gas emissions. Current knowledge suggests an order of uncertainty of: ±5 % for carbon dioxide from fossil fuels; ±10 % for total carbon dioxide emissions (including the very uncertain emissions from land-use change and forestry); ±20 % for fluorocarbons; ±20-50 % for methane; and ±50-100 % for nitrous oxide. However, there is less uncertainty associated with emission trends and these are considered reasonably robust.

National efforts are also required to improve the completeness of the time series for their greenhouse gas emission estimates and to achieve consistency by applying the same methodology to all years.

For the future, more and improved climate change impact indicators with particular relevance for Europe will be considered. Such indicators, to be selected on the basis of ongoing European research and IPCC activities, could include temperature increase, radiative forcing, precipitation, sea-level rise and water resources.

Analysis of the impact of energy taxes, of subsidies to encourage more environment-friendly fuels and reduce emissions, and of other aspects of emission-reduction programmes is needed in the future to evaluate the effectiveness of response measures.

8.7. References and further reading

AEA (1998a). Options to reduce methane emissions. Report prepared for the Commission (DG Environment). UK.

AEA (1998a). Options to reduce methane emissions. Report prepared for the Commission (DG Environment). UK.

AEA (1998b). Options to reduce nitrous oxide emissions. Report prepared for the Commission (DG Environment). UK.

CRU (1998). Climate Research Unit University of East Anglia, UK.

DETR (1999), Climate change and its impact: stabilisation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Prepared by the Hadley Centre, The Meteorological Office, UK for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, UK.

Ecofys (1998a). Reduction of the emissions of HFCs, PFCs and sulphur hexafluoride in the EU. Report prepared for the European Commission by Ecofys, the Netherlands.

Ecofys (1998b). Emission reduction potential and costs for methane and nitrous oxide emissions in the EU. Report prepared for the European Commission by Ecofys, the Netherlands.

EEA (1999a). Environment in the European Union at the turn of the century. European Environment Agency, Copenhagen.

EEA (1999b). Overview of national programmes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Topic report no 8. European Environment Agency, Copenhagen.

EEA (1999c). Case study on carbon dioxide sinks of forests, European Forest Institute. Technical Report no 35. European Environment Agency, Copenhagen.

European Commission (1998). Communication on implementing the Community strategy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from cars: an environmental agreement with the European automobile industry.COM(1998)495.European Commission, Brussels.

European Commission (1999a). Communication on climate change – preparing for implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. COM(99)230. European Commission, Brussels.

European Commission, (1999b). Council Directive 1999/31/EC of 26 April 1999 on the landfill of waste. Official Journal L 182 , 16.07.1999. European Commission, Brussels.

European Community (1996). Council conclusions on climate change, June 1996. European Commission, Brussels.

European Community (1998). Council conclusions on climate change. June 1998. European Commission, Brussels.

European Community (1999). Council conclusions on climate change. May 1999. European Commission, Brussels.

IPCC (1996). Second assessment climate change 1995, report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. ‘The Science of Climate Change’, Contribution of Working Group 1. ‘Impacts, Adaptations and Mitigation of Climate Change’, Contribution of Working Group 2. ‘Economic and Social Dimensions of Climate Change’, Contribution of Working Group 3. World Meteorological Organisation. United Nations Environment Programme. Cambridge University Press.

IPCC (1999). Aviation and the global atmosphere, a special report of working groups 1 and 3 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, World Meteorological Organisation. United Nations Environment Programme. Geneva.

IPCC/OECD/IEA (1999). Programme for national greenhouse gas inventories: good practice in inventory management. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. International Energy Agency. Paris.

Leemans, R. and Hootsman, R. (1998). Ecosystem vulnerability and climate protection goals. Report no. 481508004. RIVM, the Netherlands.

March Consulting Group (1998). Opportunities to minimise emissions of hydrofluorocarbons from the EU. Draft report prepared for the Commission. UK.

UNFCCC (1998). Second compilation and synthesis of second national communications from Annex I Parties, 6 October 1998, FCCC/CP/1998/11/Add.1 and Add.2) and Summary compilation of annual greenhouse gas emissions inventory data from Annex 1 Parties, 31 October 1998, FCCC/CP/1998/INF.9, UNFCCC Secretariat, Bonn.

UNFCCC (1999a). Report on national greenhouse gas inventory data from Annex 1 Parties for 1990 to 1997, UNFCCC Secretariat, Bonn.

UNFCCC (1999b). Report of the Conference of Parties on its fourth session, held at Buenos Aires 2-14 November 1998, part 2: Action taken by the conference of Parties, FCCC/CP/1998/16/Add.1., UNFCCC Secretariat, Bonn.


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