EU’s 2012 greenhouse gas emissions were 18 per cent lower compared with 1990, only 2 per cent below the target set for 2020, said EEA.
The figures also revealed that the 15 EU states who had signed the first Kyoto Protocol that ended in December 2012 achieved emission reductions of 12.2 per cent, more than 4 per cent above the agreement's target.
The data is likely to fuel growing disagreements among European countries about setting future greenhouse gas reduction goals, believed by some to hinder the economic recovery, making Europe globally less competitive.
Poland, one of the most vocal critics of the EU’s climate change policies and also one of the continent’s worst polluters, is hosting a climate conference in Warsaw next month. The country is believed to oppose new emission targets, to be signed in 2015, as it wants to use more brown coal to secure its energy supplies.
However, the EEA said Europe should not become complacent. "Member states must ensure that they are not making choices today that become obstacles to a low-carbon future," said EEA’s executive director Hans Bruyninckx.
Jos Delbeke, director general of the Commission's climate action service, said the EU had to balance environmental concerns with the immediate cost of new technology or energy saving through measures such as better building insulation.
"The real question is economic. We know what we have to do, but we have to mobilise the expertise. That's where we have to calibrate very cautiously," he said.
Although a conditional promise still stands to deepen EU emissions cuts to 30 per cent by 2020 if the rest of the world also promises to curb emissions, Delbeke said it would be pragmatic to shift the focus to 2030 goals.
"In terms of political energy, it seems better to put the emphasis on 2030," he said.
The Commission is expected to publish proposals on 2030 energy and environment targets around the end of the year, which EU sources have said will include a 40 per cent emissions-cutting goal and a 30 per cent renewable energy target.
Wednesday's data showed that the EU is also on track to meet a separate 2020 target to increase the share of energy from renewable sources to 20 per cent.
Green energy accounted for 13 per cent of consumption by 2011. The EEA predicts the bloc should achieve its target by 2020.