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Europe’s 2030 climate commitment risks going up in hot air

Brussels, 1 June 2016. A new policy report launched today warns of dangerous loopholes that threaten to nullify Europe’s climate commitments under the Paris agreement. It calls for greater emission cuts in sectors including transport, agriculture, waste and buildings, if the EU’s largest climate policy is to be coherent with the goal to limit global warming to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to keep it to 1.5°C.  

Loopholes can reverse the EU’s climate efforts

The Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) sets national emission reduction targets for EU Member States. It is the EU’s largest climate policy as it covers 60% of the bloc’s total emissions.

Under the ESD legislation, Member States are allowed to make use of flexibilities to reduce the cost of their emission reductions. However, it is necessary to ensure that the flexibilities do not become loopholes*.

Some countries are pushing for the introduction of loopholes in the EU’s largest climate instrument, which would completely reverse Europe’s efforts to tackle climate change. If these loopholes were introduced, the EU could emit 4.7 billion tonnes more CO2 than it promised to do until 2030,” explains Femke de Jong, EU policy director at Carbon Market Watch.

Forests cannot compensate for manmade emissions

European forests absorb more carbon from the atmosphere than they produce. The Land Use and Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector is therefore known as a “net sink” for carbon. Some countries want to use these carbon removals to lower the climate efforts in sectors such as agriculture, transport and buildings.

“The EU’s climate action needs to be made more ambitious, not further weakened through the introduction of loopholes. A more stringent Effort Sharing Decision is necessary to ensure that the EU meets its climate objectives in view of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5°C,” says Sirpa Pietikäinen, Member of the European Parliament. “While ecosystem accounting is important, offsetting should not be used to reduce the climate efforts in other sectors.”

Higher targets needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C

In the Paris climate change agreement, the EU and its Member States committed to pursuing efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 oC. Europe’s target for cutting emissions in the ESD sectors – 30% by 2030 – is not enough to deliver on this climate commitment.

“To align the Effort Sharing Decision with the Paris climate deal, the emission reduction target should be raised to 45%,” says Imke Lübbeke, Head of climate and energy at WWF European Policy Office. “This would put the EU on the right track to reach its goal to cut emissions by at least 95% by 2050, which is necessary to keep our chances to limit global warming to well below 2.0 °C and avoid the worst impacts on vulnerable people and ecosystems.”

The report states that a new and improved, fit-for purpose Effort Sharing Decision will bring about multiple benefits such as more livable cities, cleaner air and reduced energy poverty.

William Todts, Freight and Climate Director at Transport & Environment, says: “At a time when the EU’s credibility is jeopardised by “dieselgate”, the Effort Sharing Decision is a unique opportunity to deliver on its Paris commitments. We need real-world delivery and proper compliance. That’s good for the economy and the climate. This is all about super energy-efficient houses, sustainable farming and a less oil-thirsty transport sector.”

The policy brief will be published at an event at the European Parliament, The Effort Sharing Decision post-2020: How to ensure that the EU’s largest climate instrument is fit for purpose on 1 June 2016.

In April, 23 NGOs, including Carbon Market Watch, WWF and T&E sent a letter to EU leaders urging them to ensure that the Effort Sharing Decision will be coherent with the Paris Agreement.


Media contacts:

Femke de Jong, EU Policy Director, Carbon Market Watch

[email protected]

+32 4 897 726 37

Barbara Herrero-Cangas, EU Policy Officer, Carbon Market Watch

[email protected]

+32 4 871 295 91

William Todts, Freight and Climate Director, Transport & Environment

[email protected]

+32 2 851 02 21

Imke Luebbeke, Head of Unit, EU Climate and Energy Policy, WWF European Policy Office

[email protected]

+32 2 743 88 18

Kaisa Amaral, Press Officer, Carbon Market Watch

[email protected]

+32 4 850 768 90

Sarah Azau, Media and Communication Officer, WWF European Policy Office

[email protected]

+32 4 735 731 37

Notes to editor:

Policy Brief: The Effort Sharing Decision after 2020 – Ensuring that the EU’s largest climate instrument is fit for purpose

Infographic on Effort Sharing Decision and infographic briefing

Letter to ensure that the 2030 Effort Sharing Decision, the EU’s largest climate instrument, is fit for purpose

This summer, the European Commission will publish its proposal for the ESD legislation for the 2021-2030 period.

*Certain countries and industries are pushing for the following loopholes representing 4.7 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions:

  1. The use of forestry offsets to reduce climate efforts in the agriculture and transport sector, which could lead to additional emissions equal to 1,350 million tonnes of CO2.
  2. The 2020 climate targets as a starting point for counting future emission cuts, which could inflate the EU’s allowed carbon budget by 750 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in the 2021-2030 period.
  3. The use of surplus allowances from the EU’s Emissions Trading System to allow up to 300 million tonnes more greenhouse gases in the non-traded sectors.
  4. The carry-over of unused carbon permits and international offsets from the current policy could lead to an additional 2,250 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent under the 2030 Effort Sharing Decision.


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