Europe can reach a low emissions
The European Environment Agency in Copenhagen
has identified pathways to achieve Europe's contribution to a global
climate change target.
Global and European action is needed to meet the challenge
of ensuring that global temperatures will never rise more than two
degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This commitment - to
take the lead towards a "low emissions future" - was agreed by all
countries in the European Union. Serious consequences of climate
change already include more frequent and more costly floods, droughts
and other extreme weather events that are affecting water resources,
ecosystems, agriculture and human health.
Europe cannot achieve this goal alone. The report
has looked at a contribution that would require a fall in EU greenhouse
gas emissions to 40% of 1990 levels by 2030. The report projects
substantial changes in the EU energy sector by 2030. The sector
is currently responsible for 80 % of all EU greenhouse gas emissions.
More than half of the reductions required in the EU would
be based on achievable technologies inside Europe, meaning
- more efficient electricity and heat generation and use
of energy in households, industry, services/agriculture
- a switch to low-carbon fuels - and
- increases in renewable energy, mainly from wind and biomass.
The remaining reductions would be achieved by international
emissions trading involving the rest of the world.
These are the key findings revealed in a new report launched
by the European Environment Agency. The report sets out a
number of scenarios assessing what changes would be needed
to ensure a low global emissions future at the lowest cost.
Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA, says
- "Climate change is at the top of the international agenda and
many people are now aware of the Kyoto Protocol. However, the Protocol
is only a first step and the discussions have started as to what
we do after 2012 to ensure that we do not exceed the two degree
limit. In Europe, we know that we cannot do it alone - but our political
leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to global leadership on
this issue and the Agency has now mapped out possible pathways to
delivering on this political commitment.
"Europe needs to remove environmentally harmful subsidies
on energy, improve its energy efficiency and increase its share
of renewable energy. It also needs to help develop an efficient
global emissions trading market.
"Europeans need to transfer clean technology to developing
countries and invest in more research and development in clean technology.
All these actions are required, if we want to meet our political
The EEA scenario study
Modest total greenhouse gas emission reductions since 1990, were
the result of a combination of one-off structural changes and specific
policies and measures. Since 2000, CO2 emissions
in the 15 pre-2004 EU Member States (EU15) have been rising. On
present policies, this rise will continue after 2010 with a projected
overall 14% rise above 1990 levels by 2030.
Various climate action scenarios analysed by EEA, would see EU
greenhouse gas emissions reduced by 40% by 2030. More than half
of these reductions would be based on achievable technologies within
Europe, while the remaining reductions would be achieved by international
emission trading abroad in an effective global emission trading
The EEA report underlines that an alternative energy system, with
energy-related domestic CO2 emissions in 2030
that are 11% below 1990, is within reach - if the EU:
- Improves energy efficiency - particularly in households, services
and industry. These are expected to account for almost half of
the emission reduction in 2010. Towards 2030, their contribution
will decrease to about one third.
- Changes the way it generates energy. Towards 2030, more than
70% of the CO2 emissions reductions are
expected to be achieved in the power generation sector, due to
a shift to low-carbon or non-carbon fuels. The use of solid fuels
is expected to decline substantially and of natural gas to increase
rapidly. Combined heat and power will increase its share of electricity
- Removes environmentally harmful subsidies to fossil fuels. Subsidies
to energy in the EU-15 were €29 billion in 2001 - with 73
% oriented towards the support of fossil fuels.
- Invests instead in renewable energy sources and sets targets
for renewables. In particular, wind power and biomass use are
expected to increase their share in primary energy sources.
- Explores new technologies for carbon capture and storage, which
can serve as a transition technology towards a low-carbon energy
- Increases research and development in clean technology - for
example in hydrogen fuel cells.
- Raises awareness among the European public - as well as European
business - on the contribution they can make in their lives to
reduce the energy intensity of the economy.
A scenario with larger increases in renewable energy (almost 40%
of electricity generation), shows a higher reduction in energy-related
domestic CO2 emissions in 2030, of about 21%
Under all scenarios explored by the EEA, the transport sector
still remains a difficult area in which to reduce emissions.
CO2 emissions from transport are projected
to continue to grow under all scenarios (to 25-28% above the
1990 level by 2030), because of the steady increase in passenger
and freight demand.
The EEA also explored the costs involved in converting Europe
to a low-carbon energy system.
Many early initiatives in energy efficiency in the household and
service sectors may have low or even negative costs. However, significant
moves away from fossil fuels could represent an increased cost of
about 0.6% of GDP by 2030.
However, there is increased evidence that the benefits of limiting
global temperature increase to 2°C in terms of avoiding damage from
climate change throughout the world, outweigh the costs of measures
needed to reduce emissions. Furthermore, a European low-carbon energy
system is expected to result in additional ancillary environmental
benefits, such as -
- a reduction of emissions of air pollutants
- enhanced security of supply - and
- potential beneficial effects for employment.
There is a need for further analysis of the macro-economic and
sectoral costs and of costs of inaction.
Substantial low-cost emission reductions are also projected for
nitrous oxide and methane emissions from industry, waste management
EEA will publish further details of the underlying scenario assumptions
and results during 2005.
Climate change targets
The Kyoto Protocol, which entered into force in February 2005,
controls industrialised countries' emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2),
methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20)
- plus three fluorinated industrial gases -
- hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
- perfluorocarbons (PFCs) - and
- sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).
Under the Kyoto Protocol, the 15 Member States of the EU (before
2004) agreed to reduce emissions by 8 % from base year levels by
2008–12 and different emission limitations or reduction targets
for each Member State - the ‘burden-sharing' agreement.
The new Member States (except Cyprus and Malta) which joined the
EU in 2004, have their own reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol
- ranging from 6 to 8 % from their base year levels. All ratifying
industrialised countries taken together, are committed to an average
reduction of 2.8 % by 2008–12 (from the 1990 level). These countries
represent about 64 % of total emissions from industrialised countries
- since the US and Australia have not ratified.
To minimise adverse effects, the EU, in the sixth environment action
programme (2002), defined an indicative long-term global temperature
target of not more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Temperature
around the world is already about a third of the way to this target.
The EU Environment Council meetings of 20 December 2004 and 11 March
2005 both reaffirmed the temperature target.
The share of EU25 emissions in global emissions is expected to
be reduced to less than 10% by 2050, while the share of emissions
from other - including developing - countries will increase. Thus
further action to reduce emissions is needed by all countries -
both industrialised and developing - on the basis of the UN Framework
Convention's principles of common but differentiated responsibilities
and respective capabilities.
Furthermore, the EU Environment Council of 11 March 2005 concluded
that - 'the EU looks forward to exploring, with other parties, possible
strategies for achieving necessary emission reductions and believes
that, in this context, reduction pathways by the group of developed
countries in the order of 15–30 % by 2020 and 60–80 % by 2050, compared
with the baseline envisaged in the Kyoto Protocol, should be considered'.
The EEA report analysed a global emission decrease to 15 % below
the 1990 level by 2050 - which is within the range mentioned by
the Environment Council. However, further research is needed to
better quantify the required global emission reductions. The EEA
report further assumed EU emission reduction targets of 20 % below
the 1990 level by 2020, 40 % below by 2030 and 65 % by 2050. These
assumed targets are within the ranges mentioned by the EU Environment
Link to EEA report - http://reports.eea.eu.int/eea_report_2005_1/en
For information on EU future action on climate change see: http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/climat/future_action.htm