The European Union succeeded in reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 15.5% by 2010 from 1990 levels, while the economy grew during the same period by 41%, proving that it is possible to decouple emissions and economic growth. According to the European Commission's annual report on GHG emissions reduction and the parallel report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) that analyses greenhouse gas trends, EU emissions declined for six consecutive years up to and including 2009(1). The Commission therefore considers that the EU15 is on track to achieve the 8% emissions reduction target imposed by the Kyoto Protocol or possibly even to exceed it.

Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard welcomed this progress: "The EU continued decoupling emissions from GDP during the recession. Between 2008 and 2009, it reduced its emissions by 7.1% (EU27), much more than the around 4% contraction in GDP." There is no question of slowing down now, she warned: "Last year's estimated 2.4% rise in emissions shows that we need to continue the decoupling process and to pursue our efforts to make Europe a low-carbon economy."

The 2010 data show that the Union's GHG emissions rose by 2.4% over 2009, following the return to economic growth in many countries and a particularly cold winter that created increased demand for heating. In the EU15 (the new member states are not covered by the EU's Kyoto target), emissions were 10.7% above 1990 levels, which is well beyond the 8% collective reduction target. But not all member states are on the same wavelength. Some, like Austria, Italy and Luxembourg are still far from their goal and should make more of an effort to respect their commitments, either by further reducing their domestic emissions or by making greater use of the Kyoto Protocol mechanisms. The Commission and the EEA note that, to reach the targets set at national level, it will be particularly...

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