Dramatic rise in EU emissions

21 June 2005

New data shows: European governments are failing badly to face up to the challenge of global warming

Brussels, 21 June 2005: Friends of the Earth Europe called on EU governments to drastically increase their efforts to combat global warming by reducing domestic greenhouse gas emissions, as shocking new data released today by the European Commission shows a dramatic increase in emissions. In 2003, EU-15 emissions were only 1.7% below 1990 levels, while Kyoto requires to achieve minus 8%. Almost half of the emission savings achieved until 2002 have been lost in 2003. [1]

The worst performer among the EU-15 member states are Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. [2] The new data raises doubt on how serious EU Member States are in their attempts to avoid catastrophic climate change, the impacts of which are increasingly felt across the globe already today, mostly by poor people in developing countries who had no role in creating the problem. [3]

Jan Kowalzig, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "The new figures are shocking, as they indicate that Europe will most likely not meet its obligation to limit dangerous climate change. Measures put in place so far are clearly failing to deliver the urgently needed greenhouse gas emission cuts. The blame goes mostly to national economy and industry ministers, who constantly block any attempts to introduce mandatory targets for renewable energies, energy efficiency rules or fuel consumption standards for cars."

"Also, governments continue to subsidise the fossil fuel industry with billions of Euros from public budgets, in order to keep energy from coal, oil or gas artificially cheap compared to clean alternatives. And the emissions trading scheme, the EU's most prominent measure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will most likely not lead to actual emission cuts in its first trading phase, 2005 to 2007."

Friends of the Earth also emphasised that according to Article 3.2 of the Kyoto Protocol, countries "shall, by 2005, have made demonstrable progress in achieving its commitments". In light of this, the new figures released today look even more embarrassing. In a new report published today, Friends of the Earth Europe assesses where policy measures are far beyond real needs to put the European economy to low-carbon. [4]

When looking at the history and the composition of emission reductions achieved so far, it becomes even clearer that EU policies are failing. The Carbon Dioxide emissions, only one out of six gases covered under Kyoto, keep rising since about 1992 and are now 3.4% above 1990 levels. The only noteworthy reductions to date happened as a consequence of the economic breakdown in Eastern Germany after the reunification and fuel switching from coal to gas in the UK in the 1990s. Without this 'free lunch' the failure of EU climate & energy policy would be even more obvious.

Jan Kowalzig continues: "Energy use in Europe continues to be a big waste. Governments are failing to transform Europe to a low-carbon and highly efficient economy. We have been saying this for years, yet governments still refuse to accept the urgency of the problem, in order to protect dinosaur industries with good lobby contacts to politicians. The policy measures planned and taken are by far not enough. Now at least we have the evidence on the record."

"Governments must seriously begin to deal with a problem they can no longer avoid. Emissions must go down. We need at least a 30% reduction by 2020. With energy efficiency and renewable energies, this is easily possible, and experts usually agree that this can be done with net benefits for society and the economy."

Friends of the Earth also criticised that governments too often overlook the huge economic benefits from switching to clean energy. The European Commission said that the benefits of avoiding catastrophic climate change will clearly outweigh the costs of abatement policies.[5] Also, governments too often look at the interests of individual companies or sectors while they should be looking at the economy as a whole. For example in Germany, support mechanisms for renewable energies actually save money for both public and private budgets: in 2003, the money spent for all support mechanisms for renewable energy -- such as feed-in tariffs or market incentives -- was lower than what taxpayers would have paid for environmental damages or increased health care costs, if that energy had been generated from conventional and not from renewable sources. [6]


[1] The new figures are the greenhouse gas emission figures from 2003, as the data always comes with a delay of two years. They show that while in 2002, emissions in the EU-15 were 2.9% below 1990 levels, in 2003 they were only 1.7% below 1990 levels. In order to meet the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol, EU-15 emissions must be on average at least 8% below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. A "linear target path" drawn from 1990 to 2010 in order to meet the Kyoto target shows that in 2003 emissions should have been 5.2% lower than they were in 1990, instead of the meagre minus 1.7%. The official data is available at http://org.eea.eu.int/documents/newsreleases/ghg_inventory_report-en

[2] The table below lists for each EU-25 country its Kyoto target relative to 1990 levels as well as the current 2003 figures (in brackets), exposing Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal and Spain as being off the track by the widest margin. Almost all New Member States have drastic reductions in their emissions and will meet their targets -- but not as a consequence of intelligent policies but of economic change of the 1990s:

EU-15 total -- Kyoto: -8% (2003; -1.7%)
Austria -- Kyoto: -13.0% (2003: +16.6%)
Belgium -- Kyoto: -7.5% (2003: +0.6%)
Denmark -- Kyoto: -21.0% (2003: +6.3%)
Finland -- Kyoto: +/-0.0% (2003: +21.5%)
France -- Kyoto: +/-0.0% (2003: -1.9%)
Germany -- Kyoto: -21.0% (2003: -18.5%)
Greece -- Kyoto: +25.0% (2003: +23.2%)
Ireland -- Kyoto: +13.0% (2003: +25.2%)
Italy -- Kyoto: -6.5% (2003: +11.6%)
Luxembourg -- Kyoto: -28.0% (2003: -11.5%)
Netherlands -- Kyoto: -6.0% (2003: +0.8%)
Portugal -- Kyoto: +27.0% (2003: +36.7%)
Spain -- Kyoto: +15.0% (2003: +40.6%)
Sweden -- Kyoto: +4.0% (2003: -2.4%)
United Kingdom -- Kyoto: -12.5% (2003: -13.3%)

New Member States
Cyprus -- no Kyoto target (2003: +72.2%)
Czech Republic -- Kyoto: -8.0% (2003: -23.4%)
Estonia -- Kyoto: -8.0% (2003: -50.8%)
Hungary -- Kyoto: -6.0% (2003: -31.5%)
Latvia -- Kyoto: -8.0% (2003: -58.5%)
Lithuania -- Kyoto: -8.0% (2003: -66.2%)
Malta -- no Kyoto target (2003: -+29.1%)
Poland -- Kyoto: -6.0% (2003: -32.1%)
Slovakia -- Kyoto: -8.0% (2003: -27.9%)
Slovenia -- Kyoto: -8.0% (2003: -2.9%)

[3] Developing countries will be hit first and most, increasingly suffering from droughts, water shortages and crop losses, settlements devastated by hurricanes or flooding or the spread of tropical diseases. More than a million species will become extinct as a result of global warming. Europe will also be hit. The 2003 heat wave or the Central European floods were a taste of what Europe will have to face. The European Environment Agency published an assessment on the impacts in Europe, available at http://reports.eea.eu.int/climate_report_2_2004/en

[4] "How the European Union responds to the global threat of climate change". An assessment by Friends of the Earth Europe; Brussels, May 2005.

[5] "Winning the battle against global climate change"; Communication from the European Commission, February 2005; COM(2005) 35 final. Trade commissioner Peter Mandelson also noted that the Commission "does not expect any major negative competitiveness impacts from EU climate policies", in a reply to an oral question H-0123/05 by MEP Caroline Lucas, March 2005 in the European Parliament.

[6] About EURO 1.1 billion compared to about EURO 1.2 billion. See: Forecast scenarios for the Potential Role of Renewable Energies; Wolfram Krewitt, Joachim Nitsch; German Aerospace Centre; available at http://www.europarl.eu.int/workshop/renewable/addocs/krewitt-en.pdf


Related Issues