EU commits to cut greenhouse gas emissions

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GLOBE-Net, October 24, 2014 – European Union leaders have reached agreement on a Climate and Energy deal for the period 2020 to 2030.

The broad climate change pact has set a new target of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across the EU by 2030. Ambitious targets were also set for increasing the share of renewable energy sources in the EU as a whole (to 27%) and for improvements in energy efficiency, also by 27%, although it could be raised to 30% by a review in 2020.

This agreement will send a very positive signal to upcoming global climate negotiations in Paris in late 2015.

“It sets Europe on an ambitious yet cost-effective climate and energy path”, noted outgoing EU President Herman Van Rompuy. “Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of mankind,” he added. “Ultimately, this is about survival. It is the example of a long-term policy.”

The European Council’s decision reinforces the importance of a well-functioning and reformed emissions trading system.

The target of a reduction of at least 40% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 is binding on the EU as a whole. About half will come from within those sectors now part of the EU-wide Emissions Trading System (ETS). The balance will come from transportation, agricultural and building sectors (the so-called “non-ETS” group), through national and tradable targets.

This would allow one country to earn credits under the ETS by financing energy-saving or emission reduction initiatives elsewhere in Europe.

The commitment to achieve a 27% share of total energy consumed for renewables by 2030 also is also an ambitious target. Currently the EU-wide share of renewables stands at about 14%.

Doubling the share of clean energy in 15 years could be achieved by the EU as a whole, but individual countries such as Poland, which is still heavily dependent on coal-fired energy production, may find such a target impossible to reach in that timeframe.

Similar concerns have been expressed about the 27% improvement in energy efficiency.

Agreement on both the renewable energy and energy efficiency targets hinged on member states’ retaining the freedom to determine the energy mix appropriate for their respective economies, and that these goals not be translated into nationally binding targets.

Individual Member States are free to set their own higher national targets if they so wish.

Achieving a fully functioning and connected internal energy market was a high priority of the Council’s decision. Noting that several states were well below what the Commission holds as the minimum level of inter-connectivity, the Commission committed to ensure a minimum target of 10% of existing electricity interconnections no later than 2020. This will mainly affect the Baltic States, Portugal and Spain.

The EU’s climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, quoted in a Manchester Guardian article said the agreement was an important step for the whole world. She said: “We have sent a strong signal to other big economies and all other countries: we have done our homework, now we urge you to follow Europe’s example.”

If other nations do not come to the table in Paris with comparable commitments, the EU decision has an escape clause that could trigger a review of the new targets. Further comments here

Read climate policy framework here.

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