Last year, the UK reduced its greenhouse emissions more than any other European country. The UK, exceeding its Kyoto goal, was especially helped along by increased renewable energy generation. Partial credit can also be attributed to mild weather and a sluggish economy.
A couple of other honorable mentions go to France and Germany, which also made significant cuts to their emissions.
According to the report released by the European Environment Agency, only two European countries are in danger of missing their targets. Spain and Italy are the two that are lagging behind, and that can most likely can be accredited to their failing economies.
The UK’s Guardian writes:
The EU as a whole will meet its target under the 1997 treaty, which requires developed countries to cut their emissions by a total of just over 5% from 1990 levels by the end of 2012. Currently, EU member states are the only major countries pledging to continue the Kyoto protocol beyond the end of this year, when its current provisions expire.
Connie Hedegaard, EU commissioner for climate action, said the EEA’s research showed that it was possible to cut emissions while boosting economic growth. “The EU is delivering on its Kyoto commitment,” she said. “While our economy grew 48% since 1990, emissions are down 18%. These figures prove once again that emissions can be cut without sacrificing the economy. Now, it is important to keep the direction.”
At the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, the EU pledged to cut its emissions by 20%, a goal that is supposed to be achieved by 2020. For the most part, the EU looks set to easily nail that.
Unless Italy and Spain pick up the pace, however, they may fall into a “burden-sharing” agreement, which made every member mutually responsible for emissions reductions.
If they fail to meet the targeted reductions, then they could be forced to buy carbon credits under the United Nations’ emissions trading system. With both countries facing financial hardships, this could cost the distressed countries tens of millions of euros.
“The European Union as a whole will over-deliver on its Kyoto target,” said Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the EEA. “In two months’ time we will be at the end of the first commitment period under the Kyoto protocol. Considerable progress has been made since 1997 but all member states need to deliver on their plans.”
A spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said: “We welcome today’s report from the EEA and that the UK has delivered the largest emissions cuts in real terms in 2011. However, we are not complacent and there is a huge amount of work to be done, both domestically to drive up energy efficiency and decarbonise our heating, power and transport, and working with our international partners to renew the Kyoto protocol agreement during the upcoming talks in Doha, and our European partners to increase ambition at the EU level.”
It looks like the EU doesn’t have much to worry about with regards to its agreed upon 2020 emissions targets.
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