As Kyoto Deadline Nears, European Emissions Continue to Climb

by William Yeatman on May 14, 2003

in Kyoto Negotiations

European politicians are fond of berating the United States for its failure to adhere to the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, but newly published figures from the European Environment Agency (EEA see show that all but four of the European Unions fifteen nations are increasing their emission of greenhouse gases.

In both 2000 and 2001, the latest years for which figures are available, the amount of six greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere increased in Europe as a whole. The EEA blames the 2001 increase on a colder winter that led most households to burn more fuel, but admits that higher use of transportation and greater use of fossil fuels in producing electricity and heat were also responsible.

Carbon dioxide emissions, which amount to 82 percent of all EU greenhouse gas emissions, increased 1.6 percent in 2001, leaving them, coincidentally, 1.6 percent higher than in the baseline year of 1990. The EU pledged at Kyoto to reduce its total emissions by 8 percent of the 1990 level by the period 2008-2012.

Some countries are noticeably less efficient at achieving their Kyoto pledges than others. While the United Kingdom has already reduced its emissions by 12 percent against its target of a 12.5 percent reduction, Spain, which was required to limit growth in emissions to 15 percent, has in fact seen them increase by 32 percent to date. Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy, which are all required to reduce emissions, have actually increased their production of greenhouse gases. Finland increased its emissions by over 7 percent in 2001 alone.

Only Sweden, Germany, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom seem to be on track to meet their public promises. France is very slightly off target. These nations include the three biggest economies in the EU. However, as the EU made a collective commitment to reduce its emissions, the overall trend taking the smaller economies into account is such that Europe is overshooting its target for emissions reduction.

Professor Philip Stott, Emeritus Professor of Biogeography at London University, told BBC News Online, “One of the most galling things about the whole climate change debate has been European duplicity. While lecturing everybody else, especially America, on the morality of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it has been abundantly clear from the start that most European countries didn’t have a snowflake in hell’s chance of meeting their own Kyoto targets.” (BBC News Online, May 6, 2003).

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