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Greenhouse gas emissions drop in the EU for the fourth year in a row

In 2008 greenhouse gas emissions in the EU fell 1.3 percent, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said today. This figure measures only the emissions in the 15 EU countries that have commitments to reduce emissions, however when all 27 members of the EU are included, greenhouse gas emissions actually fell further: 1.5 percent.

While the decline in emissions last year appears largely due to the global recession, it is the fourth year in a role that the EU has succeeded in lowering its emissions.

“The vast majority of the decline in emissions in 2008 was due to lower CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion in the energy, industry and transport sectors,” the EEA said in a statement, because of “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.”

Emissions are now 6.2 percent below 1990 levels for the 15 older EU members. These counties have a target of reaching 8 percent below the 1990 level sometime between last year and 2012. EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said in a statement that with this newest drop the EU is on track to hit its target. However, he also added that “this trend needs to be further consolidated in the coming years.”

The EU also has an independent target—not apart of the Kyoto Treaty—to lower emissions 20 percent by 2020.

While the United States saw a similar decline in emissions in 2008 (down by 2.8 percent) because of the global recession, the nation has a long way to go to catch up to Europe. The EU has lowered emissions by 6.2 percent from 1990 levels; in the same time period emissions in the United States have actually risen 15.9 percent.

“This is a timely message to the rest of the world in the run-up to the Copenhagen climate conference in December,” Dimas said.

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