NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Greenhouse Gases on Rise in Europe

May 7, 2003

Ten of the 15 European Union nations are falling behind in efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and meet targets set by the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement to combat climate change. This is somewhat surprising, in that EU countries were expected to meet the targets more easily than could developing countries, with more heavy industry and less stringent environmental controls.

A report prepared by the European Environment Agency shows that greenhouse gas emissions -- often cited as a cause for global warming -- have risen in the EU for the second year running.

  • Ireland, Spain and Portugal are the worst offenders.
  • The union's largest economies, Germany and Britain, have cut such emissions by more than the agreed amount, while France just reached its goal.
  • But Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Austria, Portugal, Finland, Ireland and Denmark are all falling short of the targets.

"The European Union is moving further away from meeting its commitment to achieve a substantial emissions cut under the Kyoto Protocol," says Margot Wallstrom, the union's environment commissioner. "The progress we have made already needs to be backed up by additional measures. The member states that are not on track in reaching their targets urgently need to take additional action."

As a group, the union is supposed to reduce emissions of six gases compared with levels in 1990. Several nations -- especially those with less mature economies, like Spain, Greece, Portugal and Ireland -- are only supposed to hold increased emissions to a set level.

But all four have exceeded targets, with annual emissions in Spain rising by 32.1 percent instead of 15 percent, and in Ireland by 31.1 percent rather than 13 percent.

Source: Emma Daly, "Europeans Lagging in Greenhouse Gas Cuts," New York Times, May 7, 2003.


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