Reality Check for European Climate Ambition

The European commission has flagged the possibility of raising their ambition on the EU’s carbon target for 2030 after an outcry from several countries and green groups. This comes only a few months after the COP21 Paris Agreement during which nearly all countries pledged to keep temperature rises to 1.5C to 2C maximum. The existing goal of the EU is a 2C maximum temperature rise and binding 40% emissions cut by 2030. In the Guardian article, the German environment minister, Jochen Flasbarth, is quoted as saying:

Our decision did not say that we would stay at a 40% emissions cut. It said we will cut ‘at least 40%’. The commission was a member of the ‘high ambition coalition’ in Paris so we would like to know how they intend to stand by this commitment.” – Jochen Flasbarth (The Guardian, 7 March 2016)

This places the EU’s emissions target at about 2 billion tonnes of CO2 above that which it promised at COP21 in Paris for capping global warming at 2C, the Guardian reports. The EU’s current CO2 emissions pathway is managed with the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS), otherwise known as ‘cap and trade’. The EU-ETS is the only major lever to force down the EU’s greenhouse emissions with market-based pricing. The EU-ETS involves mostly power stations and industrial plants, and it allows polluters to purchase emissions offsets rather than reduce emissions at source. The available emissions permits appear to be over-allocated according to the Guardian report, resulting in current carbon prices of only €5 a tonne. The Guardian article says that the EU Commission’s position will require major adjustment, including “profound lifestyle changes“, to achieve the ambitions of the Paris agreement. claims that:

…the Commission is using the deal to lock in catastrophically inadequate action.

EEB quotes Roland Joebstl as saying:

“If we fail to act now we risk dropping the ball and turning our back on the climate deal even before the treaty is signed. This would send a catastrophic signal to the rest of the world. We expect the European Commission to take note and take action.”


The European Environmental Bureau (EEB)

The Guardian

Commission pushing catastrophically inadequate action on Paris agreement