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EU greenhouse gas up, Wallstrom calls for action

Date: 08-May-03
Country: EU

Statistics released this week showed EU emissions rose in in 2001 for the second year running despite the bloc's promise under the Kyoto Protocol to cut the gases blamed for climate change by eight percent of 1990 levels by the end of the decade.

"The European Union is moving further away from meeting its commitment," Wallstrom said. "Especially the member states that are not on track in reaching their targets urgently need to take additional action."

Under Kyoto, the 1997 United Nations pact to tackle global warming, the EU promised to make the cut as a first step to reducing global levels of greenhouse gases that many scientists believe block heat in the atmosphere.

Due to reductions in the 1990s, the EU's emissions were still 2.3 percent below 1990 levels, but this was a rise from 1999 when they were 3.6 percent lower, according to data from the European Environment Agency.

The EEA said the increase was partly due to a cold winter which had increased demand for heating fuel, especially in Germany, France and Britain.

By contrast, the United States, which pulled out of Kyoto arguing the pact would harm the U.S. economy, saw its emissions rise 14.2 percent from 1990 by 2000, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Kyoto committed developed countries to reducing emissions by 5.2 percent of 1990 levels by the period 2008 to 2012. U.N. scientists say the world must reduce emissions by more than half current levels to halt global warming.

The biggest rises in the EU were in Ireland and Spain, which both recorded 24 percent hikes in emissions since 1990.

Under a "burden sharing" deal agreed with other EU countries which requires the richer EU countries to make greater cuts, Ireland and Spain are allowed to increase emissions but only by 13 percent and 15 percent respectively.

The EEA said 10 of the 15 EU countries were way off reaching their Kyoto targets, with only Germany, Britain, France, Sweden and Luxembourg looking safely on track.

Wallstrom hoped countries could tackle emissions by improving energy efficiency, especially in buildings, and by increasing the use of renewables like wind and solar.

The Commission also hopes its pending legislation that would cap the amount of emissions factories can produce and allow them to buy and sell pollution credits will soon be approved by EU governments and the European Parliament.

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