The European Union has already passed the half way mark on the way to meeting its goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20 per cent oin 1990 levels by 2020, according to a new EU report issued this week.
The Greenhouse gas 1990 – 2008 and inventory report 2010 from the European Environment Agency (EEA) states that total emissions from the EU's 27 member states stood 11.3 per cent below their 1990 levels at the end of 2008, while the 15 most recent EU member states delivered cuts of 6.9 per cent.
"The GHG inventory report shows that the EU is well on track to meet its emission reduction targets with domestic policy measures only," said EEA executive director Jacqueline McGlade. "Our policies and tools seem to be working."
The report admitted that the recession was a major driver of the emission reductions delivered in 2008, contributing to a first-time fall in emissions from international aviation and maritime transport since 1992.
However, it added that the increased uptake of renewables was also a significant factor in driving down emissions, alongside the fact that many heat and electricity producers replaced more polluting coal with gas plants as a result of high coal and carbon prices.
Of all the countries, Spain delivered the deepest cuts, accounting for one third of the net reduction in EU-27; mainly due to a substantial replacement of coal by natural gas and a sharp decline in gasoline consumption in road transport.
McGlade said that official figures for 2009 will show an even sharper decline in emissions, but she warned that the EU would need to act as the economic recovery continues to "ensure that the downward trend in emissions continues and that Europe boosts its climate investments".
The report is likely to be welcomed by environmentalists and is also set to further fuel calls for the EU to act unilaterally to increase its emission reduction target for 2020 from 20 to 30 per cent.
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