Recession helps EU cut 2008 CO2 emissions

BRUSSELS Mon Aug 31, 2009 9:35am EDT

Smoke bellow from the chimneys of Belchatow Power Station, Europe's largest biggest coal-fired power plant, in this May 7, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Peter Andrews/Files

Smoke bellow from the chimneys of Belchatow Power Station, Europe's largest biggest coal-fired power plant, in this May 7, 2009 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Peter Andrews/Files

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union emissions of global warming gases fell for a fourth straight year in 2008, mostly caused by lower industrial activity due to economic recession, EU data showed on Monday.

The main reasons for the reductions were lower carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion in the energy, industrial and transport sectors, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said.

For the 15 EU countries that have commitments to reduce CO2 emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, the EEA said emissions fell by 1.3 percent last year from 2007.

This reflected the "effects of the global economic recession which began in 2008, which resulted in reduced industrial output and reduced energy consumption by industry and correspondingly reduced freight transport," it said in a statement.

The EEA estimates are subject to confirmation in June 2010, and do not take into account the effects of changes in land use.

Emissions by the entire, 27-country bloc declined by 1.5 percent, the EEA said. There is no EU-27 emissions target under the Kyoto Protocol, since the 12 newer EU members, including ex-communist nations, did not sign up at the start.

Based on these estimates, European Union greenhouse gas emissions in 2008 came in at roughly 6.2 percent below Kyoto base-year emissions for the EU-15 and 10.7 percent below the 1990 level for the EU-27, the EEA statement said.

"These provisional figures are a further confirmation that the EU is well on track to reach its Kyoto target, even if one should recognize that part of the reduction in emissions is due to the economic slowdown," EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said.

"This trend needs to be further consolidated in the coming years," he said. "This is a timely message to the rest of the world in the run up to the Copenhagen climate conference in December," Dimas said in a statement.

(Reporting by Jeremy Smith)

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