Nevertheless greater efforts are needed to reduce EU-15 emissions to 8% below base year levels for the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period (2008-12), the commission says.

The forthcoming national allocations of emission allowances for 2008-2012 under the EU emissions trading scheme will be a crucial tool for ensuring member states achieve their Kyoto targets. EU-25 emissions, for which there is no collective Kyoto target, rose by 0.4% from 2003 to 2004 but were still 7.3% below base year levels.

To meet our emissions reduction target member states need to intensify their efforts to implement the many EU measures to combat climate change that have been agreed over the past few years. With their new national allocation plans, due by the end of this month, member states now have a major opportunity to reverse unsustainable emission trends and ensure they will achieve their Kyoto targets, says environment commissioner Stavros Dimas.

It is very encouraging that we have broken the link between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions, but this decoupling needs to be accelerated.

The inventory for 2004, compiled by the European Environment Agency, shows an overall increase of 11.5 million tonnes, or 0.3%, in EU-15 emissions of greenhouse gases (expressed in CO2 equivalents) compared with 2003. Emissions rose in 10 of the EU-15 member states and fell in the five others.

The 2004 increase in EU-15 emissions was mainly due to higher CO2 emissions from road transport, iron and steel production and oil refining, as well as increased emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – one of the most powerful families of greenhouse gases – from refrigeration and air conditioning.

On the positive side, the commission notes that there were falls in CO2 emissions from households and services and from electricity and heat production, as well as reductions in emissions of methane from landfills and from coal mining and handling.