Trends and projections in Europe 2015 - Tracking progress towards Europe`s climate and energy targets

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Courtesy of European Environment Agency (EEA)

EU and Member States progress towards 2020 climate and energy targets

The 2015 edition of the annual European Environment Agency (EEA) 'Trends and projections' report confirms that the EU is well on track to meet its climate and energy targets set for 2020 (Figure ES.1).

The report highlights the positive impact of key 'drivers', in particular:

  • Steady roll-out of renewable energy;
  • Decrease in the energy consumption in most EU Member States over the last decade.

The positive effects of these drivers on emission trends outweighed factors generally responsible for emission increases, such as:

  • Demographic and economic growth;
  • Return to (more CO2-intensive) coal in some countries.

The report goes beyond these headline numbers and also looks at the progress of Member States towards their individual climate and energy objectives for 2020. Here the picture is nuanced: while the EU is on track, the situation differs significantly between Member States.

  • 24 are on track to meet their GHG targets (all except Austria, Belgium, Ireland and Luxembourg);
  • 20 are on track to achieve their renewable energy targets (all except Denmark, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom);
  • 20 are on track to achieve their energy efficiency targets (all except Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden);
  • 13 Member States are on track to deliver on their national targets in all three areas.

This is an improvement on 2014, where 9 Member States were on track to deliver on their national targets in all three areas. Most Member States that were on track to their national target in 2014 remain on track in 2015 (Figure ES.2).

EU progress towards 2030 climate and energy targets

In 2014, the European Council agreed on the 2030 climate and energy policy framework for the EU and endorsed new targets on greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy and energy efficiency for 2030. In 2015, the EU adopted an Energy Union Strategy to ensure that Europe has secure, affordable and climate‑friendly energy and achieve its climate and energy goals for 2030.

The report shows that while projections show further decreases in EU GHG emissions beyond 2020, Member States project that the pace of these reductions will slow down. Planned reductions will only bring EU emissions between 27% and 30% below 1990 levels by 2030, which falls short of the 40% reduction target for 2030 (Figure ES.2).

However, the recently agreed reform of the EU ETS and new policy proposals still being discussed in the EU (such as a post-2020 Effort Sharing Decision, measures to enhance energy efficiency and measures in the transport sector) have not yet been taken into account in projections. Discussions are also ongoing concerning the inclusion of land use and forestry into the 2030 greenhouse gas mitigation framework.

Sustaining the current pace of growth in renewable energy sources could enable the EU to achieve its target of a minimum 27% share by 2030. However, this will be challenging because market barriers persist, while support measures for renewable energy have been scaled back in various countries.

Furthermore, as economies pick up across Europe, further efforts will be necessary to ensure that energy consumption continues to decrease in order to reach the objective of reducing Europe's energy use by at least 27% by 2030 compared to a baseline scenario.

Outlook on greenhouse gas emission trends for 2050

The EU recently adopted new objectives for 2030, both domestically (through its 2030 climate and energy policy framework) and internationally (through its intended contribution to the UNFCCC), as part of a global effort to limit an average temperature increase below 2 °C compared to pre-industrial levels. These objectives are also consistent with a cost-effective pathway towards long term domestic emission reductions of 80% by 2050.

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 considerably their efforts to meet longer-term energy and decarbonisation objectives for 2050. For example, the reduction in GHG emissions needed between the 2030 target level (– 40% below 1990) and the 2050 EU objective (at least 80% below 1990) will have to be two to three times steeper than the necessary reduction between current levels and the 2030 target, which is itself steeper than the reductions achieved so far since 1990 (Figure ES.3).

Meeting the long-term challenge

To meet this challenge, the European Commission proposed in 2011 a roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy by 2050. EU Member States are now developing low carbon development strategies outlining concrete steps to turn EU-wide, long-term ambitions into national and local action. These national strategies were submitted for the first time in 2015 to the European Commission and will be further assessed by the EEA in 2016.

Towards a more transparent governance system

Performing a consistent and integrated assessment of progress across the three climate and energy policy objectives remains challenging, because the parameters used by Member States for projections and progress reporting are not sufficiently consistent and comparable.

To help ensure that the EU meets its energy and climate policy goals, a more reliable and transparent governance system will be developed. This represents a timely opportunity to streamline the planning and reporting obligations of Member States and to anchor measurement of progress in comparable, coherent and reliable data and information.

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