COP 22 and the EU: more courage needed

COP 21 resulted in the Paris Agreement on climate change that came into force last month with the ratification of 117 signatories, including EU, US and China. This potentially momentous accord embraces a long-term goal to keep the global temperature increase well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to push it to below 1.5°C. COP 22 in Marrakesh was held in a state of shock at the election of a climate denier as US President yet the outcome was a reinforcement of the Paris agreement.

Going forward, it is best to keep the following facts in mind: Currently climate change is estimated as an average 0.5 °C temperature rise on pre-industrial levels. Business as usual would mean this became an estimated 3.8 °C by 2100.  Even fulfilling all the pledges agreed in Paris would probably lead us to being 2.7 °C warmer by the end of the century. Not a great legacy for our grandchildren if no extra efforts are made!

The EU’s commitment in Paris was a 40 % reduction of GHG in 2030 compared to 1990. This pledge means in operational terms 43 % less for the ETS sector compared to 2005 and 30 % less for the non-ETS sector compared to 2005.  But the EU foresaw this as its contribution to limiting the maximum global climate change to +2 °C. Now it’s an +1.5 °C limit the EU backs even more extra efforts will be required.

The following climate-related legislative proposals have been launched by the Commission.

  • Revision proposal for the ETS sector of 15 July 2015 aiming at 43 % fewer emissions compared to 2005. Council and EP are still in heavy discussions to reach an agreement. The focus is not how to raise ambition but how to exclude industry subject to international competition.
  • Proposal issued in summer climate package on 20 July 2016 covering all other (non- ETS) emissions: This sets individual targets for MS to achieve collectively 30 % fewer non-ETS emissions compared to 2005. These vary from 0 to – 40 %. A first Environment Council (ENVCO) meeting has revealed already it will be a hard struggle to convince all that they take up a fair share of the collective effort, but no sign of any higher ambition after Paris.
  • Proposed system to monitor and control the emissions in land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF). The EU is one of the few territories in the world where the LULUCF sector has a positive influence on climate change, as it counts for an overall removal of around 300m tonnes CO2 equivalent per year. However, the proposal of But the Commission would not allow this advantage to be fully credited because it would make it too easy for MS to fulfill their obligations in the non-ETS sector without acting in the other sectors like buildings and transport. Some MS told ENVCO they want to have credits for this ‘sink’ on their territory. It might be more transparent to calculate this positive effect fairly and increase the ambition for the whole non-ETS sector accordingly to +1.5C max.

These three proposals cover in principle all sectors involved in climate change and there are certainly people in both the MS and Commission who that believe this will be enough regulation at EU level and it is up to the MS, industry and market forces to stay within these targets.

Nevertheless, the Commission’s recent winter energy package includes four proposals that should contribute substantially to reaching these overall climate targets.

  • Recast Renewable Energy Directive supposed to boost the share of renewable energy to 27 % of final consumption. Follows a tough struggle within Commission between market proponents and those pushing for some extra regulation. Main issues are abolition of priority access for renewable electricity, less freedom for MS to design their own support system and fewer food-based biofuels. No extra ambition here.
  • Amended Energy Efficiency Directive with target of 30 % less consumption compared to 2005. The original target was 27 %, so an extra effort seems to be delivered here.
  • Amended Energy Performance of Building Directive (EPBD) deals specifically with saving energy in the building sector, with some new elements to encourage use of renewables but no new elements to upgrade efforts.
  • Eco-design Directive working plan: proposals for heating and cooling appliances. Results of this directive by far the most impressive of all EU climate measures that the EU has taken since 2005, delivering est. annual savings of ca. 175 Mtoe in primary energy by 2020, more than Italy’s annual primary consumption. Yet, because it deals with “little” issues like washing machines and vacuum cleaners met with most sceptic tabloid media comments, unfortunately taken on board by politicians trying to please voters by removing items which should not be regulated by the EU. Similarly, Commission has removed from its working program standards for toasters and hairdryers, which together would have saved the EU a yearly 11 Twh (the output of 1000 large windmills) by 2030!

Conclusion: the EU is trying to deliver on its COP21 pledge but is not really stepping up its efforts towards the tougher 1.5 °C target. We need politicians with some courage who are not afraid of the tabloids and Facebook posts that simply aim to create anger without solutions!

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