The European Union is on track to hitting its short-term target for reducing emissions of the gases which create global warming, officials in Brussels have confirmed.
Brussels says the bloc is on the right road to meeting emission targets
In 2006, the EU's 15 long-standing Western European members reduced their greenhouse-gas emissions by 0.8 percent compared with 2005, an "encouraging" result, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said.
That result puts them "well on track" to hit their targets under the Kyoto Protocol, a Commission press release on Wednesday, June 18 stated.
However, serious challenges remain if the bloc is to hit its medium-range targets, with emissions of the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), barely dented by current policies, figures from the European Environment Agency indicated.
Only four of the 12 countries, most of them in Central and Eastern Europe, who joined the bloc in 2004 and 2007 managed to reduce their emissions, a result Dimas characterized as "not helpful."
Under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, the EU is pledged to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions to 8 percent below base levels before 2012.
Analysts in the European Commission -- the EU's executive -- currently estimate that that target is achievable, given the effort that EU member states are now making to bring their emissions down.
However, the figures released Wednesday raise questions as to the bloc's longer-term goal of reducing emissions to at least 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
Despite the overall reduction, the EU emitted over 15 million tons more CO2 from public electricity and heat production in 2006 than 2005, and 6.5 million tons more from road transport - increases of 1.1 and 0.7 percent respectively, the EEA said.
Those figures are of especial concern, because the two sectors combined account for some 40 percent of all EU greenhouse-gas emissions.
The Commission has already proposed legislation aimed at speeding up emissions cuts in both sectors, but this has sparked resistance in some EU states, leaving the final fate of the proposals in doubt.
Ironically, one of the main reasons for a recorded 16.6-million-ton reduction in CO2 emissions from EU households was that the weather was unusually warm, leading to a 3.3-percent decrease in private heat consumption, the EEA study said.
However, that was partially offset by an increase of 2.9 million tons of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) from refrigeration and air- conditioning units, mainly in France and Germany, the study said.