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European greenhouse emissions climb again

June 21, 2005 By Michael Hopkin This article courtesy of Nature News.

Figures for 2003 show a rise after a marginal fall the previous year.

Emissions of greenhouse gases rose by 1.5% across all of Europe from 2002 to 2003, according to the latest audit. The result marks a disappointing turnaround after levels fell by 0.5% during 2002.

The figures, compiled by the European Environment Agency, show that the 15 core European Union nations pumped out an extra 53 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2003 - a 1.3% hike over 2002.

This is mostly accounted for by a surge in power use from coal-fired power stations, the agency says. This could be due in part to the weather: there was an unusually cold start to 2003, which pumped up heating bills, and a heatwave hit much of continental Europe during the summer, probably increasing use of air conditioning.

Across the 15 pre-2004 European Union (EU) member states, electricity generation rose by 5% in 2003. It is difficult to say whether this rise will be repeated in the figures for more recent emissions, says Andreas Barkman, who helped to produce the report. "I don't think anyone can speculate," he says, adding that member states only submitted their latest round of emissions projections on 15 June.

Worst offenders

These figures are disappointing and further reinforce the need for member states to fully implement their emission-reduction actions.
Stavros Dimas
European Commissioner for the Environment
According to the report1, Italy, Britain and Finland were the worst culprits in 2003, with overall rises of 15 million, 8 million and 7 million tonnes, respectively. In Italy, most of this rise was due to emissions from households and from manufacturing industries. But in Britain, Finland and elsewhere the hikes were mostly the result of increased electricity generation.

Some countries did manage to reduce their greenhouse emissions in 2003. Portugal cut greenhouse gases by 4.5 million tonnes (5.3%) by investing in hydropower. And Ireland shaved some 2 million tonnes (2.6%) off its output by cleaning up its electricity generation, chemical industry and agriculture.

The rise is a blow to efforts to meet the targets set by the Kyoto Treaty, which calls for countries to reduce their greenhouse-gas outputs, relative to 1990 levels, by an average of 5% by 2012. The study shows that 2003 emissions in Europe were 1.7% lower than 1990 levels. Averaged over the past five years, levels have been 2.9% below the 1990 mark, which doesn't hit short-term targets for reductions.

Energy demands

"These figures are disappointing and further reinforce the need for member states to fully implement their emission-reduction actions," says Stavros Dimas, European Commissioner for the Environment. He adds, however, that measures such as the EU's carbon-trading scheme and investment in carbon-offsetting projects around the world were not up and running in 2003.

Outside Europe, emissions in other industrialized regions look set to grow. "In the case of China, many experts think emissions will continue to increase," says Barkman. Energy demands in China are rising rapidly as the country develops.

The report also issues a stark message to UK prime minister Tony Blair and his fellow leaders of the G8 industrialized nations, who meet in Gleneagles, UK, next month. "It is information that will be part of their discussion - that's obvious," says Barkman. But he adds that politics will play the major role in those negotiations. "How this information will be treated I cannot say."


  1. European Environment Agency. Annual European Community greenhouse gas inventory 1990-2003 and inventory report 2005, Technical Report 4/2005 (2005).


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