At the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, exactly four years ago, the union's 12 member states committed themselves to stabilising their rising yearly emissions of carbon dioxide at the 1990 level by the year 2000.
Carbon dioxide is the most important of the pollutants which trap heat in the atmosphere. It is produced by burning coal, oil and gas and during cement manufacture.
The European Commission projects the EU will break that promise, with emissions 3 per cent above the 1990 level by the turn of the century. According to the International Agency figures, the promise will be broken by 15 per cent.
The commitment was made by all developed nations as part of a climate protection treaty signed by nearly 200 world leaders in Rio.
For the EU it was a collective goal which remained in force when the union expanded to15 states last year. While some of the poorer, still- industrialising member states, like Greece and Spain, would increase their annual emissions during the 10 years, the other, wealthier ones would compensate by dropping theirs.
Each country was required to submit estimates of its projected carbon dioxide emissions to the commission. Taking these at face value, the EU as a whole would drop its emissions by 1 per cent.
But the commission now projects a 3 per cent increase, because it feels some member states were making unrealistic assumptions.
The projections were compiled and analysed by the London-based Association for the Conservation of Energy, a lobbying organisation for fuel- saving industries. Director Andrew Warren said: "Anyone who thinks Europe is going to hit its target is showing a triumph of hope over experience."
The International Energy Agency's projections were based on figures submitted by energy and trade departments of governments. The figures sent to the European Commission come from environment departments.
"I think we're seeing optimism from the environment departments and realism from the energy ones," Mr Warren said.
The most impressive emission cuts will come from Germany and Britain, according to the figures. The UK Government forecasts a 6 per cent cut over the 10 years.
For years the European Commission debated a "carbon tax" on fossil fuels which would apply across the EU as a key means of cutting emissions. But the proposal was stalemated, largely because of fierce opposition from Britain, which viewed it as an attack on national sovereignty.
Change in annual CO2 emissions
Percentage change between 1990 and 2000
What each EU IEA country estimates figures forecasts
Austria 1 8 9.8
Belgium -1 3 13.7
Denmark -12 7 7.9
Finland 30 33 29.5
France 9 13 11.5
Germany -13 -10 3
Greece 14 19 21
Ireland 20 25 20.4
Italy 3 6 13.8
Luxembourg -24 -20 -28
Netherlands 0 0 -3.7
Portugal 36 36 40.3
Spain 21 23 24.1
Sweden 4 6 4.1
UK -6 -2 0
All 15 together -1 3 9.5
Source: European Commission, IEA, Association for
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