Greenhouse gas emissions fell by 1.3 per cent across the EU in 2012

EU close to meeting emissions target eight years early

The EU is getting close to meeting its target of cutting 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 eight years before the deadline.

According to official data from the European Environment Agency (EEA) the bloc saw emissions fall by 1.3 per cent across its 28 member states in 2012, bringing emissions 19.2 per cent below 1990 levels to their lowest level on record.

But the UK's emissions rose by 3.2 per cent in 2012, an increase of 18 million tonnes and the largest rise in Europe, due to more coal being burnt for electricity and the cold winter, which pushed up heating demand and saw emissions from households and services rise across almost all of the EU's first 15 member states.

Emissions fell across Europe mainly due to cuts in industry and transport – particularly in places still struggling in the face of the economic downturn, with Italy alone accounting for 45 per cent of the decrease.

The second biggest reduction was in Poland which was mainly due to a substantial decrease in its use of coal.

The figures from the EEA also showed that the first 15 EU member states have reduced emissions by an average of 11.8 per cent over the period 2008-2012 compared to 1990, meeting its target under the Kyoto Protocol, the global deal to tackle climate change.

The EEA said that while economic output was a significant factor behind changes in greenhouse gases on an annual basis, analysis showed a "decoupling" of growth and emissions compared to 1990.

Hans Bruyninckx, executive director of the EEA, said: "The EU has demonstrated that there is no conflict between a growing economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"Policies have been at the heart of this success. We need to go even further, but this will depend on countries implementing policies which already map a path towards a low carbon, energy secure society."

The EU has set itself legally-binding targets to reduce emissions by 20 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020 and sourcing 20 per cent of energy from renewables.

The bloc is negotiating a climate and energy package for 2030, with the European Commission proposing binding EU-wide greenhouse gas emissions reductions target of 40 per cent on 1990 levels by 2030, met entirely from taking action inside Europe.

There would also be an EU-wide binding renewable energy target requiring at least 27 per cent, but no binding targets for individual countries under the proposals, which environmental groups have said are not strong enough.

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