Pushing for a low carbon EU by 2050

WWF advocates for EU policies to make the 2020 emission reduction targets more compatible with a climate safe future.
© Michèle Déprez / WWF

WWF advocates for EU policies to make the 2020 and 2030 emission reduction targets more compatible with a climate safe future which requires stabilising global warming at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

WWF advocates for the European Union to reclaim its international climate policy leadership by developing and promoting an economy-wide low carbon action plan that sets out the pathway to a low carbon society in the EU by 2050. These efforts should be supported by implementing legislation with binding targets for greenhouse gases, and deployment of renewable energy and energy savings.

In addition, the EU will have to adjust its policies and measures – starting with the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), which is currently failing completely as a means of decreasing European industrial emissions.

The EU ETS must achieve adequate and cost-effective industrial greenhouse gas emission reductions, embedded in a healthy mix of complementary policy instruments.

WWF supports the principle of pollution pricing through carbon markets and emissions trading, but currently the reputation and environmental effectiveness of the EU’s policy instrument is at stake, since no additional emissions reductions are needed for at least one decade to achieve existing commitments. Due to historically low carbon prices and an enormous oversupply of pollution permits in the market, the EU risks locking in high-carbon infrastructure and slowing down cleaner investments and progress towards a green and resource-efficient economy.

This explains why counting on a carbon market price signal alone to tackle the complex task of reducing carbon pollution across all sectors in the EU economy fails to address several barriers that exist to deploy energy savings and renewables at scale. There is a clear need to include no-nonsense policies like an emissions performance standard to prevent locking in emissions from the worst polluters. New policy should also face up to the failures of the past, such as the import of paper ‘offset’ credits that are overwhelming the carbon market.

Both short and long term measures are needed to rescue the EU ETS from redundancy. This requires a combination of emergency measures (such as backloading of emission allowances) and structural adjustments (such as a change of the linear reduction factor, and cancellation of pollution permits) in order to keep the (often so-called) “flagship” climate policy instrument from sinking.

Finally, excessive issuance of free pollution permits to energy intensive industries should be severely restricted by using realistic assumptions of competitiveness impacts based on factual data.


  • Sam Van Den Plas

    Policy Officer, Climate & Energy

    WWF European Policy Office,

    +32 2 740 09 32


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