Image: Adapted from flickr.com/Keoki Seu/CC BY-NC-SA
To keep its international climate pledges, the EU must adopt three ambitious, binding targets for greenhouse gas reductions, renewable energy and energy savings.
Cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 per cent compared to 1990 levels and a share of at least 27 per cent of renewables in the energy mix by 2030 were the two legally binding targets that the European Commission presented in its White Paper on climate and energy, released on 22 January.
The proposed 40 per cent target implies that sectors covered by the EU’s emissions trading scheme (ETS) cut emissions to 43 per cent below the 1990 levels. To do this, the annual reduction from these sectors would be increased from the current 1.74 per cent, to 2.2 per cent after 2020. Non-ETS sectors should achieve a 30 per cent reduction, relative to 2005 levels.
No binding target for energy efficiency was proposed. The Commission said that “the role of energy efficiency in the 2030 framework will be further considered in a review of the energy efficiency directive”. Moreover, there would no longer be a renewable target for transport fuels.
Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard described the 40 per cent target as “the most cost-effective target for the EU and it takes account of our global responsibility”.
Environmental groups however said that the Commission’s ambition is not in line with reaching the target of staying below 2°C warming. “This proposal is not in line with science or even the Commission’s own analyses of the multiple benefits of swift climate action,” said Wendel Trio of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe. “The EU must adopt three ambitious, binding targets for GHG reductions, renewable energy and energy savings.”
The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) described the proposed targets as “barely more than a business-as-usual scenario and most crucially fails to set targets for member states”. The EEB is calling for binding EU-wide targets of at least 60 per cent GHG reductions, a 45 per cent renewable energy share and 40 per cent energy savings by 2030, and said that this would put the EU firmly on the path to actually achieving the necessary emission reductions in the longer-term that the EU has already agreed to.
In a non-legislative resolution adopted on 5 February, the European Parliament endorsed the proposed 40 per cent GHG reduction target, but called for a binding energy efficiency target of 40 per cent. It also called for a slightly stricter binding EU-wide renewable energy target of 30 per cent for 2030, adding that the current system of binding national targets should continue. Moreover, the parliament expressed its support for the continuation of the renewables target under the fuel quality directive to reduce GHG emissions from the transport sector.
Climate policy brings air quality benefits
The Commission’s impact assessment shows that further reducing GHG emissions will also reduce emissions of major air pollutants – particulate matter (PM2.5), sulphur oxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) – resulting in positive impacts on health and the environment, and that such reductions are significantly larger in scenarios that include ambitious energy efficiency (EE) policies and higher renewable energy (RES) targets, as these have lower fossil fuel use.
While the option with a 40 per cent GHG reduction with moderate EE and RES policies reduces the number of life years lost due to air pollution by some four million in 2030, an alternative option with the same GHG reduction, but supplemented by ambitious EE policies and a 30 per cent RES target, reduces the number of life years lost by 11 million. The option with a 45 per cent GHG target, ambitious EE policies and a 35 per cent RES target reduces impact even further, by 13 million life years lost.
This reduction in mortality can also be valued economically. A 40 per cent GHG reduction with moderate EE and RES policies reduces health damage due to air pollution by €4.8 - 11.1 billion per year in 2030 compared to the reference scenario. In the options with ambitious EE and RES policies, reductions in health damage are higher: €12.6 - 29.2 billion/year for the 40 per cent GHG target, and €15 - 35 billion/year for the 45 per cent GHG target.
Because of lower air pollutant emissions, costs for controlling them are lower as well, between €0.7 and 7 billion/year depending on the option assessed.
In conclusion, all climate policy options investigated bring significant reductions in emissions of SO2, while reductions in emissions of PM2.5 and NOx are much more pronounced in scenarios with ambitious energy efficiency policies. The related health benefits are also present across scenarios, but much bigger in scenarios that include ambitious energy efficiency policies and higher renewable energy shares.
Source: Commission’s Impact Assessment to the Policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 up to 2030. SWD (2014) 15 final. 22 January 2014.