OSLO (Reuters) - European Union emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for stoking global warming fell by 1.2 percent in 2007, paradoxically aided by a mild winter that cut heating demand, EU data showed on Friday.
Emissions by the 27-nation bloc in 2007, before the current global economic downturn, dipped to 9.2 percent below a 1990 benchmark year under the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol for fighting climate change.
EU governments have promised to cut emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 to slow global warming, and by 30 percent if other developed nations set comparable goals.
“For the EU, there was a significant decline in the use of oil and gas, particularly in households,” according to a report about 2007 data prepared for the EU Commission by the Copenhagen-based European Environment Agency.
It said that a warmer winter was the main reason for a fall in demand for oil, gas and coal — the biggest source of greenhouse gases from human activity — for heating in households and offices. Energy prices also rose sharply in 2007.
Emissions by manufacturing industries also fell, led by declines in Italy, Britain and Spain. But emissions rose from fossil fuel power plants, led by countries such as Germany, Spain, Greece and the Netherlands, it said.
More than 190 nations have agreed to work out a new U.N. climate treaty by the end of 2009 to fight warming that the U.N. Climate Panel says will bring more droughts, floods, extinctions of species and rising sea levels.
Overall emissions in the EU fell by 59 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2007 from 2006 to 5.56 billion tons, or 1.2 percent, it said. Germany and Britain, the top emitters, had falls of 2.4 and 1.7 percent respectively.
In the 15 nations that were EU members before expansion mainly to eastern Europe in 2004, emissions fell by 64 million tons, or 1.6 percent, to 4.23 billion tons in 2007.
The EU-15 emissions were 5.0 percent below 1990 levels in 2007, compared to a goal under the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol of an average cut in emissions of 8.0 percent below 1990 levels in the 2008-12 period.
The EU says it is leading an international fight against climate change. U.S. President Barack Obama wants to cut U.S. emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020 — U.S. emissions were about 17 percent above 1990 levels in 2007.
The United States is the only developed nation outside the Kyoto Protocol — former President George W. Bush dismissed the pact as an economic straitjacket that unfairly omitted targets for developing nations such as China and India.
The EU data showed huge differences in emissions trends by member states since 1990. In the biggest fall, Latvia’s emissions were 54.7 percent below 1990 in 2007 while Spain had the biggest rise, 53.5 percent above 1990.
Editing by Angus MacSwan