Adequate emission reductions

Fossil fuels and nuclear energy are being challenged in Europe as their true costs become known, but the pace of change is still too slow.
© Istockphoto / aclio

...A gaping hole in climate policies

Action against a threat as existential as climate change requires long-term planning by responsible policymakers to reach our goal of a prosperous society in a climate-proof economy by 2050.

The European Union likes to present its climate policies as a model for global action on climate change. However, at the centre there is a gaping hole: the EU’s commitment to cut its emissions by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020 is not sufficient to avoid dangerous climate change.

Similarly, the proposed 40% target by 2030 perpetuates a goal which is inadequate to deal with the scale of the problem. In addition, the EU28 has already outperformed its climate target for 2020 with six years to spare. This is great, but why rest on our laurels?

The benefits of a modern European low carbon economy extend far beyond achieving reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. It would also make us competitive in global low carbon markets and unlock innovation and financing potential, while investments in renewable and efficient energies will improve European energy supply security, health of the citizens, and create new jobs.

It is time for more ambitious emissions reduction targets

Ample evidence has shown that current policies don’t have a negative impact on the EU’s industrial competitiveness. Unfortunately, policymakers are all too often cornered into thinking that short term economic interests need to prevail over longer term climate protection. However, both these goals cannot be traded off against each other if Europe is to succeed in its global goal to promote peace and prosperity.

Now that we know that the costs of achieving higher emissions reductions are significantly lower than expected, it is time for more ambitious and adequate emissions reduction targets within Europe by 2020 and 2030 if we want to reach our goal of a low-carbon economy by 2050.

This planning has to provide achievable steps in a clear timeline and must comprise all sectors that affect greenhouse gas emissions, from energy production to buildings and products to transport. Coordination at the highest level is essential.

The European Commission recognised this necessity and launched the so-called ‘2050 roadmaps’, followed by a 2030 policy framework indicating how the EU can reach its climate and energy targets, including policy challenges, investment needs and opportunities in different sectors.

Further implementation needed to turn this into reality will require an important role for reality-based EU policy that achieves common aims while retaining national flexibility within an identifiable, positive programme. That programme would extend the set of successful binding targets for greenhouse gases and renewable energy to include energy efficiency.

Finally, the level of ambition for these policies should actually have an impact on the problem we are trying to solve.


  • Sam Van Den Plas

    Policy Officer, Climate & Energy

    WWF European Policy Office,

    +32 2 740 09 32

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