EU set to overachieve 2020 carbon emissions goal

Greenhouse gas emissions fell 2% in 2013 says Environment Agency, but warns some countries are slipping

(Pic: Bigstock)

(Pic: Bigstock)

By Ed King

The EU is on track to overachieve on its climate targets for 2020, according to the European Environment Agency.

New greenhouse gas data shows emissions fell 1.8% between 2012 and 2013, leaving the bloc just 1% off its goal to cut emissions 20% on 1990 levels by 2020.

The EEA says member states could make overall cuts of 24% on 1990 levels by the end of the decade, if “additional measures” such as carbon market reform and new energy efficiency rules are adopted.

Based on existing policies, the EEA says emissions will decline to 21% below 1990 levels by 2020.

In 2007, the European Council agreed on the 20:20:20 goals: to cut emissions 20% on 1990 levels, while boosting energy efficiency 20% and getting 20% of energy from renewables.

EU efforts are divided up among member states under the effort sharing directive, meaning every country has slightly different goals.

Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom are all on course to meet their share of the three targets.

But it warns that while EU-wide figures are generally positive, Germany, Luxembourg and Poland are on course to miss their share of emission cuts.

Germany could also miss its energy efficiency goals, along with Estonia and France.

The EEA says further efforts will be needed to develop and enforce efficiency policies “as economic growth gradually picks up again across Europe”.

Last week, European leaders voted to aim for a 40% reduction in GHG levels by 2030, with the possibility of this increasing if a planned UN climate treaty is signed in 2015.

According to the EEA’s analysis, existing policies will deliver only a small decrease in emissions until 2030.

“These anticipated reductions between 2020 and 2030 are still largely insufficient when compared to the 40% reduction target and the even steeper reduction needed beyond 2030, if the EU is to remain on a trajectory towards a low-carbon and resource-efficient economy.”

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Think-tank Sandbag warned that over-delivery on the 2020 target could undermine the 2030 goal, unless there are radical reforms to the carbon market.

That is because a surplus of allowances is building up in the EU emissions trading system (ETS).

If that surplus is carried over to the next decade, Europe could get away with emissions cuts of as little as 26% by 2030, Sandbag estimates.

Damien Morris, Sandbag’s head of policy, says: “The European Council concluded that a well-functioning and reformed carbon market will be the main European instrument to achieve the 40% target, but if new reforms fail to tackle the growing surpluses in the EU ETS, it will be the policy which undermines, rather than delivers that target.”


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