EU countries "to miss Kyoto targets"

US charity casts doubt on EU leadership in international climate change negotiations

Many EU countries look set to miss their Kyoto protocol targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, an American charity warned yesterday. The organisation's head, Eileen Claussen, claimed the results of a review of five countries suggested that the protocol targets should be renegotiated. She also accused the EU of "hypocrisy" over its criticism of US reluctance to take strong action on climate change.

Published by the Pew Centre, the study analyses progress towards the Kyoto 2008-2012 greenhouse gas reduction target by the UK, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Spain. Only the UK, it claims, is on track. Of the remaining four, only Germany is even close. Collectively, the five countries accounted for 60% of the EU's emissions in 1990, the protocol's base year.

Austria is unlikely to meet its 13% reduction target, the report says, because its emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are currently up 8% on 1990 levels and the country has limited options to reverse the trend. Per capita Austrian emissions are already relatively low because much of its electricity is generated from hydropower and the government has ruled out nuclear power as an option.

Equally far from its target, the Netherlands is committed to a 6% emissions cut but has instead seen a 17% increase for CO2. The government has introduced a wide range of measures without reversing the trend, the report says. "The Netherlands underestimated emissions in the role of the country's economy," according to report co-author Robert Moreland.

Along with several other countries, Spain's target under the EU "bubble" is not to reduce but to limit its emissions increase to no more than 15%. The report says that since CO2 levels are already 12% higher than in 1990, the country looks set to breach the target without further measures.

Germany and the UK are the only countries likely to meet or exceed their targets, the Pew Centre predicts. Germany's emissions are currently down 17% on 1990 levels compared with a target of 21%. Reaching this will be "difficult but not impossible," it comments.

Probably in the best position of all EU countries, the UK's CO2 emissions are already down 14.6%, compared with a targeted reduction of 12.5%. However, the report notes that both the UK and Germany have benefited from fortuitous trends - a switch from coal to gas power generation in the former and industrial decline in the former East Germany - which cannot be expected to continue.

Follow Up:
Pew Centre, tel: +1 703 516 4146. See also a press release and the full report.

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