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. EU Way Off Course For Meeting Kyoto Targets Say Latest Figures

Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Richard Ingham
Paris (AFP) Jun 22, 2006
New data published Thursday showed the European Union (EU) remains embarrassingly off track for meeting its pledges under the Kyoto Protocol, the UN climate-change pact it championed after a US walkout.

Instead of falling, EU greenhouse-gas pollution actually rose in the latest year of monitoring, adding to the task of meeting the Kyoto goals, according to figures released by the European Environment Agency (EAA) in Copenhagen.

"Despite the various policy initiatives, this report highlights that the trend is still going in the wrong direction," declared EAA Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade.

"Europe must implement all planned policies and measures relating to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions," said McGlade.

She warned that EU members needed to take "ambitious" steps when crafting the next phase of their Emissions Trading System (ETS), a Kyoto mechanism designed to reduce pollution by big industry.

The EU-15 has pledged to reduce emissions by eight percent by 2012 as compared with a benchmark of 1990.

But between 2003 and 2004, emissions rose by 0.3 percent, or 11.5 million tonnes, marking the second annual year of increase, the EAA said in its annual report. Emissions in 2004 were just 0.6 percent lower than the base year of 1990 -- more than four percentage points adrift of where they should have been by that time.

For the EU-25, after the "Big Bang" membership enlargement, the increase was 0.4 percent in 2004, or 18 million tonnes, over 2003.

"An increase of 0.4 percent may appear small; however, the magnitude of GHG (greenhouse-gas emissions) is such that the actual increase is significant," said McGlade. "(It) is comparable to the amount of CO2 emissions released by three million people if they were to drive their cars around the world."

The EU saved Kyoto from collapse after the United States abandoned the treaty, then still in draft form, in March 2001 in one of President George W. Bush's first acts in office.

The pact requires industrialised countries that have ratified it to trim outputs of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases that trap solar heat and could wreak havoc with the planet's delicate climate system.

Making these cuts can carry a significant cost, in making equipment more fuel-efficient and cleaner or in weaning an economy away from dirty fossil fuels and converting it to renewable sources, which is why Bush walked out.

The EAA report makes these points:

-- Road transport contributed most to the increase, accounting for a rise of 12 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) among the EU-15. Iron and steel makers were also culprits, upping their CO2 pollution by eight million tonnes.

-- Spain and Italy had the biggest GHG rise, with 4.8 and 0.9 percent respectively. Spain switched to fossil fuels after the 2003 drought hit power from hydro. Italy emitted more through oil refining and road transport.

-- Germany, Denmark and Finland did best, seeing reductions of GHGs of 0.9 percent, 8.1 percent and 4.9 percent respectively. Germany offset a rise from the iron and steel sector by big reductions in CO2 in households and services. Denmark and Finland made further moves to switch from fossils to hydro in electricity production.

Friends of the Earth Europe reacted bitterly.

"Europes governments make grand statements about their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas pollution," it said.

"Yet economy and industry ministers continue to block or water down policy measures to switch to renewable energies, reduce energy waste or introduce fuel consumption standards for cars."

The report is the second bad jolt for the EU's Kyoto ambitions in less than two months.

In April, the ETS, a "carbon market" where companies buy and sell quotas of CO2 under the EU's cap-and-trade system, went into a tailspin. It emerged that some national governments had been hugely over-generous in allocating these firms pollution quotas in the first phase of the scheme.

The EAA report is sent to Kyoto's parent body, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), under clauses requiring signatories to provide an annual inventory of man-made GHGs.

Its sources are national governments, although the data is also reviewed by the European Commission and the EAA.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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