EU on Track to Exceed 2020 Carbon Emissions Targets

Having reduced CO2 emissions by 17% as compared to 1990 levels, the European Union (EU) is well on its way to reaching its legally binding, 20% by 2020 CO2 emissions reduction target. Being so close nearly a decade ahead of schedule raises the possibility of the EU raising the 2020 emissions reduction bar to 30%, a topic that’s likely to once again become a high-profile topic of discussion and debate among EU parliamentary representatives.

The projected cost of accomplishing the feat would be considerably less than originally thought, according to the contents of a draft European Commission (EC) analysis and document reported by Reuters.

In addition, reaching the 30% CO2 reduction target could have beneficial effects on the finances of weaker and still developing EU member countries, depending on the amounts and allocation of EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) credits, the EC analysis contends.

A Plan for Reaching 30% Emissions Reduction by 2020

The EC had estimated the additional cost of reaching 30% emissions reduction from base year 1990 to
be around 33 billion euros ($42 billion). The deep 2008-2009 recession effectively guarantees that the EU will reach the 20% by 2020 emissions reduction target. Yet while the recession and persisting EU bank and government debt problems have made doing so easier, they’ve also limited the ability of EU governments, industry and business to invest in the projects necessary to achieve it.

Reaching the 30% emissions reduction target would require economic sectors not currently included in the EU ETS, such as ground transport and buildings, to reduce their emissions 6.5%. Another issue of contention is economic cost, particularly for economically weaker and still developing Eastern European EU member countries.

These member countries argue that raising the emissions reduction target to 30% would affect them disproportionately. The EC analysis offers solutions that would more evenly distribute the costs of doing so.

The EC analysts recommend reducing the number of Emission Trading Scheme allowances can auction to their industrial sectors by 38%, which would reduce supply by 341 million allowances in 2020, while leaving the amounts weaker and Eastern European member countries could auction unchanged. Taking this course would result in the auction amounts raised by the weaker EU members increase by as much as 80% by 2020, Reuters reported the EC document as saying.

As it is, the EU is on course to reduce CO2 emissions 25% by 2020, and some EU members, including the UK and Denmark, believe it’s in the EU’s economic and overall best interests to do so unilaterally, the Reuters report notes.

The EU delegation to 2011’s UN climate treaty talks in Durban offered to raise its emissions reduction target to 30% by 2020 of other countries agreed to increase their own targets and efforts. Denmark currently leads the EU government as it holds the EU presidency, which rotates among members. That raises the possibility that the 30% by 2020 target may be high on the EU agenda this year despite the EU’s financial and economic woes.

An independent journalist, researcher and writer, my work roams across the nexus where ecology, technology, political economy and sociology intersect and overlap. The lifelong quest for knowledge of the world and self -- not to mention gainful employment -- has led me near and far afield, from Europe, across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa and back home to the Americas. LinkedIn: andrew burger Google+: Andrew B Email:

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