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Member states offered EU climate target flexibility in bid to cut emissions

Climate & Environment

Member states offered EU climate target flexibility in bid to cut emissions

Non-ETS sectors must cut emissions if the EU is to keep the climate commitments it made at the COP21 in Paris.

[James Crisp/Flickr]

EU member states will be able to bank annual emissions savings from sectors such as agriculture and transport, and use them in later years to meet their climate targets, under EU legislation set to be put forward on Wednesday (20 July).

The draft Effort Sharing Regulation offers countries flexibility in deciding how to make their contribution to a binding EU-wide target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in sectors not covered by the EU’s Emission Trading System (ETS).

Agriculture, transport and buildings are the only three major sectors currently not regulated under the ETS, which caps emissions form large industrial installations such as steelmaking and power generation plants.

The European Commission has said that such ‘non-ETS’ sectors must cut their emissions by 30% compared to 2005 levels by 2030. Road transport, for example, accounts for a fifth of EU carbon dioxide emissions, and agriculture is responsible for 9.6% of EU greenhouse gases.

Member states will be given autonomy to decide how much each sector contributes to their target, and to buy and sell carbon allocations to each other, under the draft bill. This measure will encourage investment in low-carbon technology, it is hoped.

National targets

Each country will be given a national target calculated on its GDP per capita, which will contribute to the bloc’s overall goal. These national targets range from a 0% cut to 40%.

The higher the GDP, the higher the target will be. Bulgaria, for example, is likely to be given a 0% target but maintaining current emissions would still require climate action.

Nations with large agriculture industries will be allowed to use carbon credits earned through, for example, maintaining forests or converting arable land into grassland, to meet their targets. That contribution will be capped to prevent the system being gamed.

The Commission plans to monitor progress on a yearly basis, backed with enforcement tools and may launch legal proceedings against those who fail to implement legislation.

If a country over-achieves on its emission savings it will be able to bank them to count against a later year’s tally, if necessary.

Bill tailored for member states

By handing governments flexibility on how to reach the target, the Commission hopes to secure national support for the legislation.

When EU leaders agreed their 2030 climate and energy targets in October 2014, they pushed for authority over their national energy mixes. Tomorrow’s bill is an attempt to meet that demand.

If approved by both the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, the regulation will come into force in 2020, after the existing 2020 goals expire.

But there is still disagreement between countries and the Commission over the starting point for calculating emissions reductions.

The Commission is pushing to set the point at the average emission levels for 2018-2020. Some sources said 2016-2018 was also on the table.

The closer the starting level to the actual emissions in 2021, the greater the expected emissions reductions. Reductions need to be maximised to meet EU and international climate commitments.

Land use and forestry

The land use, land use change and foresty (LULUCF) sector covers emission reductions and the removal of carbon from the atomosphere by nature.

The Effort Sharing Regulation will bring LULUCF into EU law for the first time. It was governed by for the 2nd commitment period of the UN Kyoto Protocol, which ends in 2020.

But Kyoto’s accounting rules and its use of a ‘business as usual’ baseline have left it open to abuse. By overstating their “business as usual” logging, governments can scoop up millions of euros worth of carbon credits by simply not hitting their timber-felling targets.

The Commission will introduce tougher accounting rules and will not allow forest management to be taken into account in a bid to head off abuse.  There is no reliable EU-wide data on forest management, which led to the decision to exclude it. Reporting periods for forestry will also be revised to make them more representative of the reality on the ground.

Forestry carbon credit loophole could be used to game climate commitments

EXCLUSIVE / Weaknesses in the oversight of the European Union’s forestry sector has exposed it to the risk of being used to game government climate commitments and scoop up millions of euros worth of carbon credits.

2030 targets and Paris

EU leaders agreed to a cut of at least 40% greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

ETS and non-ETS emissions reductions will contribute to that target, as well as separate but related bills to boost energy efficiency and renewablesby 27%. They are expected in the autumn.

EU leaders adopt 'flexible' energy and climate targets for 2030

EU leaders Thursday night (23 October) committed by 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40%, and increase energy efficiency and renewables by at least 27%.

The 2030 goals were the cornerstone of the EU’s negotiations at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21).

COP21 ended with a landmark agreement between world leaders to cap global warming to no more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Now in the process of ratification, the Paris Agreement also set an aspirational non-binding cap of 1.5 degrees.

But the promises made by signing countries are not enough to hit either goal, which has led for calls for the EU 2030 targets to be raised.

COP21 celebrations, but governments must mind the emissions gap

World governments today (12 December) agreed a historic international agreement to fight global warming at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris.

Tomorrow’s initiative is part of the broader Energy Union strategy, which aims to lessen the bloc’s dependence on energy imports and fight climate change.

Member states haggle over ‘low-carbon mobility’ goals

The European Commission is having “very intense discussions” with member states over the individual emissions reduction percentage that they will be assigned to reduce emissions in sectors not covered by the Emissions Trading Scheme, a top EU official told journalists today (31 May).


The Effort Sharing Regulation aims to reduce emissions from sectors such as transport, buildings and farming, which are major contributors to global warming.

It applies to those non-ETS sectors not covered by the EU's Emissions Trading System.

The regulation will break down an EU-wide target of a 30% greenhouse gas reduction compared to 2005 levels by 2030 for the 28 member states, which must agree an identical text with MEPs before it can become law.

The cuts are essential if the EU is to hit its 2030 target of a 40% reduction, compared to 1990 levels, in greenhouse gas emissions.

This will be crucial if the bloc is to keep to the climate commitments it made at the UN Climate Change Conference.


  • 2O July: Commission to launch Effort-Sharing Decision.

Further Reading

NGO: Truck emissions limits crucial to achieving EU climate goals

Introducing EU-wide CO2 standards for trucks would bring significant savings and place Europe on track to fulfil its Paris climate commitments to cap global warming, a new study has found.

Paris agreement requires agriculture emissions target to succeed

The Paris climate agreement was historic. Some 177 nations signed the Paris treaty to limit warming to at least 2°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. Yet the question remains – are countries clear on how they will get there? asks Dr Lini Wollenberg.

Climate-smart agriculture: More than just greenwashing?

Ahead of the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture's second forum, numerous associations have criticised the group, citing the prevalence of greenwashing and lack of actual positive impact on climate change. EurActiv Germany reports.