EU Greenhouse Gas Reductions

The EU is well on track to meeting its second Kyoto commitment of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, according to the European Commission.

GHG emissions were 18% below base year levels in 2012, and these are estimated to decline further to around 19% in 2013, bringing the EU to within touching distance of its 2020 target.

These key findings are contained in a recently published Commission annual report, which assesses the progress made towards achieving the Kyoto objectives.

The Report Annex provides data on fiscal revenues from the auction of allowances through the EU Emission Trading System (ETS). This amounted to EUR 3.6 billion in 2013, of which EUR 3 billion has been used for climate and energy-related purposes.

In addition, a Commission staff working document provides a detailed analysis of policies and measures put in place by country and sector.

The Communication is divided into five main sections, which focus on the following topics:
• Overachievement of the Kyoto targets for the period 2013-2020 and the Europe 2020 target
• Overachievement of the Kyoto targets for the period 2008-2012
• GHG emissions trends in the EU
• State of implementation on the Union’s climate change policy
• Situation in the Union’s candidate countries and potential candidates

Kyoto Targets for 2013-2020

As regards the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, existing measures submitted by Member States and Iceland show that total emissions (excluding Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) and international aviation) are projected to be 25% lower in 2020 compared to base year levels.

While the Report notes that 15 of the EU Member States are projected to meet their commitments with existing policies and measures, 13 still need to make some improvements.

In general, among countries that exceed their national targets, the recurring issue of transport is specifically highlighted by the Commission. Other issues relate to the need to shift from labour taxes to taxes less detrimental to growth – such as environmental taxes – in order to develop environmental incentives towards cleaner mobility and to foster clean and efficient energy.

Kyoto Targets for 2008-2012

EU emission levels in 2012 were at their lowest since 1990 and 2013 levels are set to be even lower.  As a consequence, EU Member States may outperform their assigned targets by an average reduction of 22.1%.

As regards the EU-15, it is notable that their emission reduction effort has achieved more than twice the target set in the first commitment period, with an average reduction of 18.5%.

While the ETS provides an EU-wide cap on emissions, non-ETS sectors are still subject to national targets. An assessment of these sectors enables an assessment of progress towards meeting Member State Kyoto targets. The Report identifies three groups of countries: 
• EU-15 countries out of which seven countries will have to make use of international credits under the Kyoto mechanisms
• EU-11 countries which will meet their targets through domestic emission reduction measures alone
• Malta and Cyprus, which are not subject to targets under the first commitment period

The Report stresses that the EU and its Member States will be able to use Kyoto mechanisms until compliance assessments for the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol are completed.

EU GHG Emission Trends

Emission reductions have been significant within the transport and industrial sectors, while they have slightly increased in the energy sector.

Every country has seen their GHG emissions intensity significantly decrease. Per capita emissions have also followed the same pattern, with the notable exceptions of Cyprus, Malta and Portugal.

The Report highlights that the economic crisis has accounted for less than half of emission reductions, with the development of energy efficiency techniques and renewables significantly contributing.

With regards to aviation, it can be noted that while the GHG emissions of domestic flights have decreased since 2000, they have increased with regard to international flights. Also, the extent to which aviation impacts on climate change is still being assessed, in particular through research on aviation induced cloudiness (AIC).

Climate Change Policy Implementation

The EU’s commitment toward GHG emission reduction was recently renewed throughout the European Council’s agreement on the 2030 Climate and Energy framework. This framework can be broken down into three main objectives to be completed by 2030: 
• A binding domestic greenhouse reduction target of 40% compared to 1990
• A target for at least 27% of renewable energy in the EU energy mix, binding at EU level
• An indicative 27% energy efficiency target
The Report highlights progress made towards the enhancement of the ETS for phase three with regards to:
• An extended scope to new sectors, i.e. aviation, as well as to substances, i.e. nitrous oxide (N20) and PFCs
• An overall EU cap
• ‘Back-loading’ and ‘market stability reserve’ measures that aim to address the carbon price issue

Finally, the Report addresses an array of legislation and measures aimed at mitigating climate change with regards to transport (ships, cars), substances (fluorinated greenhouse gases) indirect land use change emissions from biofuel production and LULUCF actions.

The Report then outlines the key objectives of the EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change, namely “promoting action by Member States”, “mainstreaming adaptation action into EU policies” and “promoting better informed decision-making”.

On the financial side, the Report notes that 87% of auctioning revenues have been spent for climate and energy related purposes by Member States, which exceeds by far the 50% minimum level. The Report also makes particular mention of the NER 300 funding programme, which is financed by the auctioning of 300 million allowances from the new entrants’ reserve of the EU ETS and will provide subsidies to 38 renewable energy projects and 1 CCS project.

On a final note, the Report underlines the various instruments that have been implemented in order to mainstream climate policies within the EU budget. 

Situation in EU Candidate Countries

The Report shows that, amongst the EU’s candidate countries and potential candidate countries, only two saw their GHG emissions increase compared to 1990 levels. These were Montenegro and Turkey, which do not have legally binding targets under the Kyoto Protocol.