European greenhouse gas emissions increase by 2.4pc

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Greenhouse gas emissions rose in Europe last year, but the EU remains on track to meet international commitments to cut gases which cause climate change, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said.

There was a 2.4 per cent increase in emissions in 2010, which followed a 7 per cent drop in 2009 caused largely by the recession and the growth of renewable energy in Europe, the agency said.

The increase last year was due to a return to economic growth and a cold winter which boosted the use of heating fuels.

Across the 15 countries in the EU which have a collective target under the international Kyoto Protocol on climate change, emissions were down 10.7 per cent on 1990 levels, well below the 8 per cent reduction required by 2008 to 2012.

But existing measures by member states will not be enough to meet a unilateral goal set by the EU to reduce emissions by 20 per cent by 2020.

Planned additional measures will help drive down emissions, but will be “insufficient” to make the important cuts in greenhouse gases needed in the longer term, the agency warned.

The EEA also said three countries, Austria, Italy and Luxembourg, are not on track towards their Kyoto target. While the UK has cut greenhouse gas emissions by 24.8 per cent since 1990, it saw a 3 per cent rise last year.

The EEA said its analysis showed greenhouse gas emissions had been strongly influenced by economic development in the past two decades, but that recent trends showed policies were having a positive impact on tackling climate change.

The first phase of Kyoto expires next year and international negotiations have so far failed to secure agreement on what mechanism will be in place to secure further cuts to emissions after that time.