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Europe's green credentials, how do they measure up?

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Europe's green credentials, how do they measure up?


The EU pumps around 10 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere. That number has been falling year on year since 1990 as Europe tries to hit climate targets. The European Commission claims that the union has managed to reduce its toxic output while expanding the economy, proving to doubters that being green doesn’t mean losing the green. But the story is not so simple.

The EU remains one of the world’s top polluters along with China and the US. Although the EU started well above China in terms of GHG emissions, Beijing’s percentage sky rocketed in 2000.

Top emitters in 2013

1. China
2. USA
3. EU
4. India
5. Russia
6. Japan
7. Germany
8. South Korea
9. Iran
10. Saudi Arabia

(figures from the Global Carbon Project)

Many of the top emitters are now developing countries. However, the World Resources Institute noted that in 2012 the US was still the top emitter with 20 tonnes per capita. In an apparent paradox the biggest emitters, China and US, are also some of the biggest investors in renewable energies. In fact, China actually extended its lead over the US as an investor in green energy technology.

China’s economic miracle appears to be linked to its impressive rise in GHG emissions. Experts from Norway and the US estimate that China will overtake the US as the main cause of man-made global warming since 1990 by 2015-16. The year 1990 was the bench-mark for UN-led action on climate change.

Questions over greenhouse gas emissions are becoming more pertinent as the Paris climate summit approaches. Scheduled for the end of this year, it aims to seal a deal on limiting the increase in global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius. However, some scientists are warning even this limit could have catastrophic consequences for the planet.

Own Goals

Countries around the world have set their sights on varying targets to clean their consciences along with the atmosphere.


20% by 2020 became the motto of the EU.According the the EU Commission the 28-member bloc is well on target to achieve its goal. This has led them to up the ante proposing a “40% cut by 2030”:


One of the heaviest polluters, the US has pledged to reduce their emissions to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025.


Announcing new plans in June, China said it would reduce its CO2 emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 60-65 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.


Moscow has committed to reducing emmissions by 25% of 1990 levels by 2030.


Dutch citizens pushed for a court decision to force the government to cut emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

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