EU set to overshoot 2020 climate goals, split over 2030


The European Union will cut its carbon emissions in 2020 by a bigger margin than it has pledged it would under United Nation climate change treaties, a meeting of the bloc’s environment ministers was told on Wednesday (14 May).

“Europe will be overachieving in 2020,” Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency said after presenting his organisation’s findings to ministers and European Commission officials in Athens.

The EU has unilaterally pledged under the UN’s Kyoto Protocol on climate change to reduce its emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020.

The bloc has already almost met that target and now expects to beat it easily by 2020. “For the year 2020, total emissions are projected to be 24.5% below base year levels,” it said in a document submitted to the UN on April 30.

Environmental campaigners welcomed the lower EU emissions but said this was no substitute for setting deeper targets.

“Without targets and new policies there is no guarantee that circumstances won’t change and emissions rise back up,” said Wendel Trio of green group coalition CAN Europe.

The ministers were meeting ahead of next month’s resumption of UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany, when nations with Kyoto targets had agreed to review their commitments under the pact.

Trio said there was no chance the EU would agree on a deeper commitment at the summit but urged the bloc to toughen its goal eventually to “pile pressure on other big emitters into taking more action.”

Scientists and environmental campaigners have urged the bloc to continue its leadership in tackling climate change to ensure global temperature rises are kept below the 2 degree Celsius level that UN-backed scientists say is needed to prevent a huge increase in droughts, flooding and rising sea levels.

But EU member states remain split over how to meet an even more ambitious Commission proposal to cut carbon emissions by 40% in 2030, the bloc’s Greek EU Presidency said.

“There are three groups of member states,” said Greek Energy and Environment Minister Yannis Maniatis. Some member states support the Commission’s proposal while others hesitate to adopt any targets at all. A third group, including Greece, wants to go even further, Maniatis said.

The EU has pledged to agree on the 2030 targets and measures by October.

The EU’s 2030 climate and energy framework package was presented on 22 January 2014 as a successor to the three 20-20-20 targets of 20% greenhouse gas cuts, improvements in energy efficiency and renewable energy market penetration, all by 2020. The energy efficiency goal is non-binding and remains the only one the bloc is not on track to meet.

For 2030, the EU framework has proposed:

  • A 40% greenhouse gas reduction target that is binding at nation state level and may not be met by carbon offsets
  • The use of carbon offsets to meet further emissions reduction commitments made in international climate talks
  • A 27% renewable energy target that is binding at an aggregate European level but voluntary for individual member states
  • No consideration of any new energy efficiency target until after a June 2014 review of the Energy Efficiency Directive  
  • Non-binding shale gas recommendations which could be made binding after a review in 2015
  • A market reserve facility for the Emissions Trading System, with the power to withhold or release up to 100 million allowances
  • An end to the Fuel Quality Directive, which mandates reductions in the greenhouse gas intensity of transport fuels, by 2020

The package was widely received as a compromise reflecting the balance of power between various member states at the European Council. It will now be discussed by MEPs at the European Parliament and EU heads of state at the European Council before a final version is agreed.

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