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Published on January 22nd, 2014 | by James Ayre

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EU Carbon Emissions Could Be Cut By 40% By 2030 Using Only Low-Cost Measures



The European Union could cut its carbon emissions by as much as 40% (against 1990 levels) by the year 2030 using nothing but “low-cost” measures, according to a new study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

The study — undertaken with the aid of 11 other notable research groups — makes it clear that significant cuts can be made to the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, even relatively rapidly, while having only very negligible negative effects (if any) with regard to the economy. To be precise, the study predicts that such cuts “would be likely to cost less than an additional 0.7% of economic activity.”

coal power station with emissions via Shutterstock

Business Green provides some context on the study:

The findings were released today ahead of the announcement next week of the European Commission’s proposals for a new set of climate targets and policies to replace the current targets for 2020s. According to various reports, key figures within Brussels still remain divided on the level of emission reduction targets that should be adopted for 2030, with speculation mounting that the bloc could opt for a weaker than expected target of 35 percent. Moreover, it remains uncertain as to whether or not member states will opt to extend current targets for the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures through to 2030 or back UK calls for such technology-specific targets to be shelved. The new report argues that more ambitious emissions targets of up to 40 percent can be met using existing and cost-effective technologies.

“In the next two decades, it is possible to achieve the transformation using existing technologies,” stated lead researcher Brigitte Knopf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Who also noted that “the modelling showed that after 2030 new technologies would be required to deliver the deep 80 percent emission cuts the bloc has pledged to provide by 2050.”

Continuing along that line of reasoning, Knopf argued that aggressive new targets and policies are a necessity — both with regard to achieving cuts now, and also with regard to spurring the development of “innovative new technologies”.

“A clear price signal has to be set today, for instance in the European Emissions Trading System,” she said. “It would provide an incentive for innovation that would prevent energy systems from being locked into long-lasting investments in CO2-intensive technologies, such as coal-fired power plants.”

Interestingly, the modeling from the new study also suggests that there are a number of quite different options available to policymakers for achieving the goal of a 40% cut by 2030 — anything from ramping up the deployment of renewable energy technologies, to improving energy effiency, to building more nuclear power plants, etc.

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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.



  • Ross

    The first 40% is easy and embracing inevitable change for the better will be good for the economy not a cost. We can’t accept this 40% as a fixed target. Every year it has to be enhanced so that by 2030 that target we arrive at is much higher than 40% and we’re targeting 100%+.

  • Frederik

    Fortunately, the Commission has decided to go for 40% and not 35%. Now let’s hope that it will work out…

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