Driving Europe’s transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy
October 4, 2016 | Brussels
IMAGE: DG Climate Action
By Jos Delbeke, Director-General for Climate Action at the European Commission
The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Climate Action is committed to making Europe the most climate-friendly region in the world by continuing the EU’s leadership in the fight against climate change and helping worldwide to deal with the consequences for our planet.
The EU played a vital role in securing the historic Paris Agreement − the world’s first universal and legally binding deal to tackle climate change − last December.
This landmark deal marked a critical turning point in the global fight against climate change, moving from action by few to action by all. In Paris, governments agreed to limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C, while increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and strengthen climate resilience. This sent a clear signal to investors, businesses and policy makers that the global transition from fossil to clean fuels is here to stay.
Now we must all turn the promises we made in Paris into concrete policies that will help us avoid dangerous climate change.
When it comes to climate action, Europe is ahead of the curve. This is the region of the world where the most climate policies have been implemented, and where practical policy experimentation in the field of the environment and climate change has been taking place at a rapid pace over the last quarter of a century.
The EU has set itself some of the world’s most ambitious climate and energy targets, committing to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% in 2020, by at least 40% in 2030 and by 80-95% by 2050.
We have put in place robust policies that will help us improve our energy efficiency and increase the share of energy consumption from renewable sources. These policies not only help us reduce emissions but also contribute to reducing our fuel import bill, as well as creating new jobs and bringing health benefits for our citizens. And we have a good track record on delivery: between 1990 and 2014, emissions in the EU fell by almost a quarter while our economy grew by almost 50% over the same period.
This is encouraging news for countries putting climate policies in place for the first time. We know from experience that it gets easier over time. Once structures are in place to develop climate policies, the benefits of action will become clear and the more governments will realise they can do.
This has been our experience in the EU and why we have made it a priority to move ahead with implementing our 2030 climate and energy framework. As well as an economy-wide emissions reduction target of at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, this also includes a target for an improvement of at least 27% in energy efficiency on 1990 levels and at least a 27% share for renewables in our energy mix.
Even before the Paris conference, we presented a proposal to strengthen the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) − our principal tool for cutting greenhouse gas emissions - to ensure it delivers the reductions required as well as to promote investments in line with our longer term emissions goals.
Innovation will play a crucial part in the decarbonisation of energy production and industrial activities. The Commission’s legislative proposal to revise the EU ETS includes an Innovation Fund to support investments in renewable energy, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and low-carbon innovation in energy intensive industry. This will complement research initiatives to support large-scale demonstration of innovative technologies in the EU.
To achieve our global vision, all sectors of the economy need to contribute. This summer the Commission presented binding greenhouse gas emission targets for each Member States to ensure that the required reductions are met in sectors such as buildings, agriculture, transport and waste.
Our climate targets are integrated into a wider set of policies that aim to make energy more secure, affordable and sustainable, and foster sustainable and efficient transport in Europe. Recent initiatives include a strategy for low -emission mobility, setting the course for the development of EU-wide measures on low and zero-emission vehicles and alternative low-emissions fuels.
By the end of the year, the Commission will bring forward further initiatives on renewables, energy efficiency and the internal energy market as part of the Energy Union Strategy. Next year we will focus on legislation to make cars and vans more efficient.
Alongside action to reduce emissions, and just as important, we are taking action to make Europe more resilient to the impacts of climate change. The Paris Agreement puts adaptation and resilience on an equal footing with mitigation as an inseparable facet of the sustainable development pathway that we need to follow. The EU Adaptation Strategy adopted in 2013, promotes action in key vulnerable sectors and in all relevant EU policies and encourages Member States to develop national adaptation strategies, with 21 already in place.
Our cities and regions have an important part to play both in mitigating climate change and adapting to its impacts and are already contributing to EU climate efforts in both these areas. Climate action at local level provides opportunities for new jobs, innovation, green growth and investment, as well as cleaner air and better health. European cities will play a pivotal role in a new coalition of cities – the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy – which aims to expand the alliance’s reach across the globe and support voluntary action to combat climate change and move to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy.
We remain committed to sharing our experience and supporting other countries in implementing their climate action plans in the context of sustainable development. In line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the EU will continue to integrate climate action into its development programme and all major EU policies. The EU provides the largest amount of public money to developing countries to fund climate projects. In 2014, the EU and its Member States collectively provided €14.5 billion to help them tackle climate change. As well as this, 20% of the EU’s 2014-2020 budget will be spent on climate-related action.
In addition, we will continue to push for ambitious action on addressing emissions from international aviation and climate-warming hydroflurocarbons at crucial upcoming negotiations. Action in these two important sectors would make an important contribution to our global objectives.
Paris was just the beginning. In a few weeks’ time we will meet in Marrakesh to advance work on developing the rules and tools that will guide the agreement’s implementation. As we prepare to put the Paris Agreement into practice in the EU, we will continue to push for ambitious action on all fronts, both at home and at international level.
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