The Kyoto Protocol allows Parties to fulfill their greenhouse gas (GHG) emission commitments jointly if they wish. In its legislation approving the Protocol , adopted in 2002, the European Union (then still called the European Community) stated that it and its 15 Member States at the time would make use of this provision to fulfill the EU's emissions commitment jointly.
The 15 Member States concerned (the "EU-15") are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The European Union and these 15 Member States are thus jointly responsible under the Kyoto Protocol's compliance mechanism for fulfilling the commitment to reduce their collective GHG emissions in the 2008-2012 period to 8% below 1990 levels.
To ensure the target is met, the EU-15 Member States have each taken on agreed national emissions reduction or limitation targets under what is known as the "burden sharing" agreement. These national targets are differentiated according to each Member State's relative wealth at the time of the agreement but collectively add up to the 8% reduction needed. The targets are legally binding under EU law.
Formally known as quantified emission limitation or reduction commitments (QELRCs), the EU-15 and national "burden sharing" targets are officially expressed as percentages of emissions in their chosen base year . The targets are also often expressed as follows:
|Target for 2008-2012
(change from base year)
The QELRCS have been translated into the exact amounts of greenhouse gases – expressed in terms of CO2-equivalent - that the EU-15 and its Member States, as well as all Member States that have joined more recently, may emit in the five years of the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period from 2008 to 2012. These amounts are set out in a Commission Decision.
For emissions of the main GHGs covered by the Kyoto Protocol – carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) - all Member States take 1990 as their base year except Bulgaria (1988), Hungary (average of 1985-1987), Slovenia (1986), Poland (1988) and Romania (1989).
For the fluorinated gases – hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) - all Member States take 1995 as their base year except Austria, France, Italy and Slovakia (all 1990) and Romania (1989).
For the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol starting on 1 January 2013, the EU intends to fulfil its emissions reduction commitment jointly with the 27 Member States, Croatia and Iceland. The EU has submitted information on QELRCs for the second commitment period to the UNFCCC Secretariat.