EU roadmap falls short on emissions

17th March 2011


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Related tags

  • Carbon Trading ,
  • Mitigation ,
  • EU ,
  • Adaptation



Emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) across the EU can be cut by 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 if member states meet the bloc's 20% energy-efficiency improvement goal, says the European Commission in its roadmap for moving to a competitive lowcarbon Europe by 2050. Member states can meet the efficiency goal through measures already in the pipeline, says the commission.

Although the map sets out a costefficient pathway to reach the EU’s longterm target, to reduce GHG discharges by 80%–95% below 1990 levels by 2050, a commitment to a higher 30% reduction target for 2020, something that the UK government has called for, is absent from the document.

Connie Hedegaard, European commissioner for climate action, says that starting the transition to a low-carbon economy now will cost less than waiting. “As oil prices keep rising, Europe is paying more every year for its energy bill and becoming more vulnerable to price shocks. So starting the transition now will pay off ,” she says.

Environmental groups criticised the lack of any strengthening of the 2020 target, however, particularly as new research suggests a higher reduction goal could bring greater economic benefits.

“The EU’s plans for tackling climate change are totally inadequate – they may have a map but they aren’t going fast enough or far enough,” commented Mike Childs, head of climate change at Friends of the Earth. The map reveals that current policies are not projected to reduce EU emissions to 30% below 1990 levels until 2030.

Meanwhile, researchers at the Oxford based Smith School of Enterprise (SSEE) and the Environment and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) have discovered that increasing the EU’s 2020 GHG reduction target from 20% to 30% could help boost European investments by 4% and create up to six million additional jobs.

Using a new model, based on ambitious investment expectations rather than business-as-usual trends, they found that the European economy could be shifted to a new “low-carbon equilibrium” by a decisive move to a domestic 30% emissions-reduction target and independently of an international post-2012 agreement.

“In traditional economic models, reducing GHG emissions incurs an extra cost in the short term, which is justified by avoiding long-term damages. However, what we show is that by credibly engaging on the transition to a low-carbon economy through the adoption of an ambitious target and adequate policies, Europe will find itself in a win–win situation of increasing economic growth while reducing greenhouse gases,” said lead author Professor Carl Jaeger at the PIK.

The researchers point out that a smaller reduction in GHG emissions is insufficient to mobilise innovation, but that the higher 30% target, accompanied by ambitious growth targets, will foster an increase in the growth rate of the European economy by up to 0.6% a year over the next decade. All economic sectors – agriculture, energy, industry, construction and services – will experience growth, says the report.

The SSEE/PIK findings are supported by a second report, from UNEP. It found that greening the economy not only generates growth, and in particular gains in natural capital, but it also produces higher GDP growth.

UNEP says investing 2% of global GDP (around $1.3 trillion) into 10 key sectors – agriculture, buildings, energy, fisheries, forests, manufacturing, tourism, transport, water and waste management – can kick-start a transition towards a lowcarbon, resource-efficient economy.


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