Europe’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions have led to a major success by producing 23 per cent less CO2 in 2014 compared to 1990, better than the 20 per cent target for 2020.
Reported by the European Environment Agency (EEA), the encouraging result comes in the run-up to the major international climate change talks to be held in Paris next month.
However, environmental organisations urged Europe not to rest on its laurels and continue with its emission reduction efforts.
The European Environment Agency’s report states that the overall amount of greenhouse gas emissions fell by 4 per cent over 2014 compared to 2013, partly thanks to unusually high temperatures that reduced the need for heating.
The agency foresees EU countries might achieve a 24 per cent reduction by 2020 with existing measures and up to 25 per cent if further and already considered measures are put in place.
"Europe succeeded in cutting emissions by 23 per cent between 1990 and 2014 while the European economy grew by 46 per cent over the same period,” said EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Canete.
"We have shown consistently that climate protection and economic growth go hand in hand. This is a strong signal ahead of the Paris climate conference that Europe stands by its commitments and that our climate and energy policies work."
However, further progress is expected to slow down after 2020 and the EEA report has urged European legislators to draw up new policies in order to meet longer term targets.
With currently planned strategies, Europe may only improve its emissions further to somewhere between 27 and 30 per cent by 2030.
However, the EU pledged to aim for a minimum 40 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and environmental groups have called for even more ambitious targets.
"Our report shows that the EU is on track towards its 2020 climate targets,” said EEA executive director Hans Bruyninckx. “The report also shows that to achieve our long-term goals for 2030 and 2050, a fundamental change is needed in the way we produce and use energy in Europe."
Despite Europe’s successes in slashing its carbon emissions, the world is likely not on track to stop the rise of global temperatures to the degree needed to prevent major environmental consequences.
To limit the global temperature rise to 2 °C, which is needed to avoid severe droughts, floods and heat waves, the rich as well as the developing nations would have to resort to much more dramatic measures, said the OECD on Tuesday.
"Countries have made efforts, but these are not sufficient to reach their own targets, let alone reach the 2 °C objective," said climate specialist Mikaela Rambali, who co-authored the OECD report.
The study analysed efforts of its 34 member states and 10 partnering countries including China and India, who alone are responsible for over 80 per cent of global carbon emissions.