Progress of the European Union and its Member States towards 2020 climate and energy targets
The 2016 edition of the annual European Environment Agency (EEA) 'Trends and projections' report confirms that the EU is well on track to meet its targets on greenhouse gas emission, renewable energy and energy efficiency set for 2020. Progress at Member State level is more nuanced.
The 2016 edition of the annual European Environment Agency (EEA)Trends and projections in Europereport confirms that the European Union (EU) is well on track to meet its greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets for 2020. In 2014, GHG emissions were 23 % less than in 1990, after an exceptional drop in emissions in 2014 due to a particularly warm winter. According to preliminary estimates, a small increase in emissions is expected to have occurred in 2015. This increase would mean a decline in EU GHG emissions for 2015 of 22 %, compared with 1990. The latest national projections available from EU Member States indicate that by 2020, EU GHG emissions will be well below the 2020 target.
Since 2005, emissions from the industrial installations covered under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) decreased twice as fast as those under the Effort Sharing Decision (ESD), which covers sectors such as transport, buildings, agriculture and waste (– 24 % for ETS compared with – 12 % for ESD between 2005 and 2015).
The report also looks at the progress of Member States towards their individual objectives for 2020. Here the picture is nuanced: while the EU is on track, the situation differs between Member States. In 2014, all Member States, except Malta, met their annual targets under the ESD. According to preliminary estimates, a similar situation occurred in 2015. Malta will therefore need to use the flexibilities provided under the ESD to ensure current compliance.
According to the latest projections reported by Member States, existing policies and measures will not be sufficient to reduce domestic GHG emissions below the 2020 ESD targets for five Member States (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland and Luxembourg), even though these countries have achieved their annual targets to date. Austria has reported additional measures that would be sufficient to meet the 2020 target if implemented on time. However, if no additional domestic measures are implemented, the four other Member States would need to make use of flexibilities provided by the ESD to achieve their targets. They could, for example, transfer excess emission credits generated in the early years of the 2013–2020 period to the later years of the period. Although currently not on track, Malta expects its ESD emissions to fall below ESD targets by 2020.
The report shows that while projections from EU Member States predict further decreases in EU GHG emissions beyond 2020, the pace of these reductions will slow. Planned reductions by 2030 will only result in bringing EU emissions to levels between 26 % and 29 % below those of 1990. This falls short of the EU’s 40 % reduction target for 2030.
However, the agreed reform of the EU ETS and recent policy proposals being discussed in the EU have not yet been taken into account in projections. These include (1) new annual binding GHG emission targets for Member States for the 2021 to 2030 period (a new ‘effort sharing’ between Member States, including new flexibilities to achieve these targets); (2) the integration of the land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector into the EU 2030 Climate and Energy Framework; and (3) a European strategy to cut emissions from the transport sector. Further measures will be proposed in autumn 2016 to address energy efficiency and further develop renewable energy in the EU.
In 2015, the EU also adopted an Energy Union Strategy to ensure that Europe has secure, affordable and climate‑friendly energy and can achieve its climate and energy goals for 2030. To ensure the achievement of the Energy Union’s policy objectives, and agreed climate and energy targets, as well as policy coherence, a new governance system is currently being developed, which includes (1) a structured, political dialogue between the Commission, Member States and other EU institutions; (2) streamlined planning, reporting and monitoring across the energy and climate fields; and (3) stronger regional cooperation.
The 2016 analysis of progress towards long-term decarbonisation targets in the EU remains as per the 2015 assessment: although the EU and its Member States are making good progress towards their short-term goals on climate and energy, they will have to increase their efforts considerably to meet longer-term energy and decarbonisation objectives for 2050. The pace of GHG emission reductions after 2020 should actually increase in order to achieve targets, rather than slow down as is currently projected by Member States. Assuming the necessary emission cuts required to achieve the 2030 target actually take place, an even deeper reduction must be achieved between the 2030 target level (– 40 % below 1990 levels) and the EU objective for 2050 (at least – 80 % below 1990 levels). This reduction will have to be two to three times greater than the decrease necessary between current levels and the 2030 target, which is itself greater than the one achieved since 1990.
As underlined in the EEA report,The European environment - state and outlook 2015, achieving the EU’s long-term decarbonisation objective can only take place only in the context of a major transformation of the EU’s socio-technical systems such as the energy, food, mobility and urban systems. As the effects of policies and measures often take time to materialise, long-term action should not be delayed. Member States tend to prioritise low-cost mitigation measures, but they should also take into consideration the long-term mitigation potential of other measures, including those that are often postponed because of high current costs or other difficulties related to their implementation. Investments in these measures often make economic sense, even in the short term, as they significantly contribute to the generation of learning effects and thereby foster future cost reductions.
Figure ES.1 Greenhouse gas emission trends, projections and targets in the EU
Note: The GHG emission trends, projections and targets include emissions from international aviation, and exclude emissions and removals from the land-use sector. The ‘with existing measures’ (WEM) scenario reflects existing policies and measures, while the ‘with additional measures’ (WAM) takes into account the additional effects of planned measures reported by Member States. For the most part, these projections were reported in 2015 and therefore do not reflect the expected effects of recent policy proposals such as the reform of the EU ETS and other measures in non-ETS sectors for the period after 2020.