MANY of the European nations responsible for coercing the United States to remain committed to combating climate change are named and shamed today as major polluters of the environment.
A remarkable report has discovered Britain stands almost alone among 15 EU nations in making strides towards honouring Kyoto commitments to cut greenhouse gases.
The London-based think-tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), has found that ten of the 15 European Union signatories to the Kyoto Protocol will miss their targets by 2010 without urgent action.
The worst offenders are Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy, each up to 20 per cent off target. Only Britain, Sweden and France are remotely on target.
The poorly performing nations are among the many who have criticised the US and President George Bush - who early in his presidency declared Kyoto "dead" - for refusing to sign up to the agreement because of fears it would limit economic growth.
However, earlier this month - after fierce negotiations at a United Nations conference in Montreal, Canada - the US did agree to a "non-binding dialogue to respond to climate change", aimed at setting new mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions after 2012, when the existing pact known as the Kyoto Protocol expires.
The research carried out by the IPPR, the Left-leaning think-tank, finds that Britain has the best record on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It projects that by 2010, with green policies still to be introduced, the UK will have reduced emissions by 20 per cent of the level recorded in 1990. Sweden will be just 1 per cent away from achieving its target of an increase on 1990 levels of just 4 per cent.
However, Spain will miss - by 13 per cent - its target of limiting emission levels to 15 per cent more than were recorded in 1990. Ireland will fail to hit its target of emission levels running at a rate of 13 per cent higher than the 1990 level by 20.4 per cent.
Duncan McLaren, the chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said last night he was surprised the IPPR had found the UK's projected performance would be so good, and he questioned its methodology.
However, he added: "We are not surprised to see the EU falling behind its Kyoto targets, and this is because nations are increasing the pursuit of economic growth rather than sustainable development."
Mr McLaren said the report did illustrate how quickly environmental policies could impact in a positive way.
The IPPR report said that although Austria on current performance was 21 per cent off its target, by 2010 after additional green policies had been adopted, it would miss its target by just under 4 per cent.
Austria's target is for emissions by 2010 to be 13 per cent less than was recorded in 1990.
Tony Grayling, IPPR's associate director, said: "We have very little time left to start reducing global greenhouse gas emissions before irreparable damage is done. It is vital that EU countries keep their promises to cut pollution."
At Kyoto in 1997, industrialised nations agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 per cent relative to the 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012. The targets varied: a 20 per cent cut was pledged by Germany; 12.5 per cent by the UK; 7 per cent by the US; while some countries, such as Australia, negotiated large increases.