The European Union could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 52% below 1990 levels by 2030 if they were to take action in three key sectors — electricity supply, residential buildings, and passenger road transport — according to new research published by the Climate Action Tracker.
The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) published its second country assessment in its Scaling Up Climate Action Series last week, focusing this time on Scaling Up Climate Action in the EU. According to the report, the EU’s climate targets and policies do not yet meet with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit. This is problematic not only in the grand scheme of everyone doing their part to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, but more so when you consider that Europe will suffer from significant heat extremes (including heat waves and droughts) in a world which continues warming unabated, especially in Southern and Eastern Europe, while Northern European countries will suffer from heavy precipitation.
The new report from CAT lays out the most promising sectoral pathways for countries to achieve Paris Agreement 1.5˚C compatibility and clearly shows that the most ambitious emissions reduction pathways presented as part of the European Union’s own long-term climate strategy could not only be achieved, but would also produce significant co-benefits.
“Our analysis shows the EU can—and needs to—ratchet up its 2030 target to make it consistent with the Paris Agreement,” said Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, one of three organizations behind the Climate Action Tracker, which also includes NewClimate Institute and Ecofys. “Decarbonising electricity is the key to decarbonising the economy. The EU’s first step must be to phase out coal by 2030, and many EU member states are well on the way to achieving this.”
Specifically, by the middle of 2018, 10 out of the 28 European Union Member States (which currently includes the United Kingdom) — which, together, account for 26% of European coal capacity — had already set 2030 coal phase-out goals. On top of that, Germany and Spain — which account for over 39% of European coal capacity — are both currently considering phase-out decisions (which might be more likely for the latter than the former). But even this is not fast enough, and coal phase-out options must be implemented across the European Union.
Current policies are not enough. The EU’s new 32% renewable energy target — set back in June, despite attempts to set a higher target — is a good step in the right direction, but will only lead to a 48% share of renewable energy in electricity generation by 2030.
Thus, the CAT report highlights scaling up action measures to be taken across three areas — electricity supply, residential buildings, and passenger road transport. These three areas of European life account for around 60% of the EU’s current energy-related emissions, and according to the report scaling up action could lead to complete decarbonization in these sectors by 2050.
Further, reductions in these three sectors alone would help reduce EU28 total greenhouse gas emissions by up to 52% below 1990 levels by 2030. But, to do so, the EU must urgently scale up climate action.
“Why should the EU increase its action?” asked Hare. “The IPCC has clearly shown that keeping warming to 1.5˚C will reduce negative climate impacts like the extreme heatwaves, drought and flooding that are already being felt in the region. If the EU weans itself off fossil fuels, it will also reduce air pollution and premature deaths.”
“The whole of the EU needs to – and can – move faster than best players in the region: Denmark has so far been the frontrunner for scaling up renewable energy and renovating buildings, Norway for electric mobility, and Austria and Czechia for public transport,” said Professor Niklas Höhne, of NewClimate Institute.
But scaling-up climate action would not only support Europe’s attempts to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement but would also create up to 350,000 additional direct jobs between 2020 and 2030 in the electricity sector alone. Overall, though, a number of measures need to be taken.
There are a number of arenas and policy initiatives which are needed — most important among them decarbonizing electricity generation and electrification of the transport sector, as well as decarbonizing the heating and cooling sectors. For more information about the Climate Action Tracker’s Scaling Up Climate Action in the EU report, click here.
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