EU’s Kyoto track record
Fourteen member states have already achieved their targets
By Sophie Petitjean | Monday 07 December 2009
Very much a driving force in the Copenhagen negotiations, the EU has also recorded good results in the efforts it has undertaken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during the first period of the Kyoto Protocol (2008-2012). For the fourth consecutive year, it has reduced its emissions such that they have come down to their lowest level since 1990. In 18 years (1990-2008), the greenhouse gas emissions of the EU27 have fallen by 10.7%. Better still, according to the latest report1 by the European Environment Agency (EEA - based on data from 1990 to 2007, the estimates available for 2008 and emissions forecasts for 2010, 2015 and 2020], the Union looks like going further than the commitments it made at Kyoto.
The Kyoto Protocol was submitted for ratification in 1998 and came into force in 2005. It obliged the EU15 to reduce its average emissions, between 2008 and 2012, by 8% by comparison with 1990 levels. According to the conclusions of a November 2009 report by the EEA, fourteen out of the EU’s 27 member states have reduced their average emissions more than the reductions envisaged by Kyoto (see table). In general, the best performing countries are the ones that joined the EU most recently. With the exception of Slovenia, the only country that failed to reach its targets, the nine other countries from Central and Eastern Europe that made commitments under the Kyoto Protocol have gone beyond their commitments. However, this progress is more down to reductions in the 1990s than to the mechanisms proposed by the Kyoto Protocol.
At the same time, only five of the fifteen EU countries (EU15) that were party to the protocol have met their commitments: France, Germany, Greece, Sweden and the UK. Only Austria expects not to be able to meet its commitment in the current provisions and will have to step up its efforts to reduce emissions in the sectors outside the Community Emission Trading Scheme (ETS).
GOING BEYOND KYOTO
The report also provides forecasts for the 2008-2012 period by using data from the last five years (either 2003-2007 or 2004-2008 depending on the data available). It considers that the EU15 is likely to manage to reduce its emissions by 13%, ie go beyond the Kyoto targets, provided several factors can come together. One is a combination of existing and additional policies (which should lead to a reduction of 6.9% and 8.5%, respectively). Another is the purchase by governments of credits from emissions reduction projects outside the EU and the trade in emissions quotas between ETS participants. And, finally, through forestry activities leading to the absorption of carbon dioxide (CO2) present in the atmosphere, which would make it possible to achieve an extra one percentage point reduction. Only Austria fears that it may not reach its emissions reductions targets of 13% by comparison with the reference year.
As for longer term targets, putting in place all the additional planned measures should, by 2020, lead to a reduction of 14.3% of emissions by the EU27 by comparison with the reference year. And while these forecasts are optimistic, they are, however, a long way off the figures put forward by Europe ahead of the Copenhagen negotiations, ie a reduction of 20% in 2020 and even of 30% in the event of an international agreement.
(1) The report is available at www.eea.europa.eu/publications/eea_report_2009_9