EU can meet 30% emissions goal, says Ecofys

Reinforcing existing policies on renewables and energy efficiency are enough to meet tougher targets, but the EU ETS cap will need to be adjusted

Full implementation of the European Union’s energy efficiency and renewable energy targets, together with the EU emissions trading scheme (EU ETS), could deliver a greenhouse gas reduction of at least 30% by 2020 relative to 1990, independent research has found.

The finding is the result of a joint study between Ecofys consultants and international research group Climate Strategies into how the EU’s 2008 20/20/20 climate policy objectives (ENDS Report, January 2009) interact to meet the bloc’s unilateral commitment to an economy-wide 20% emissions cut by 2020. The study looked at how the three elements could contribute to the higher 30% target which is under discussion (ENDS Report, June 2010)

The Ecofys and CSN study found that, taking the recession into account and assuming further reductions outside the non-energy sector, emissions could be cut by as much as 32% by 2020 if the renewable and energy efficiency targets that were agreed prior to the recession are implemented in full. Of the three targets set at 20% by 2020, only the energy efficiency one is voluntary.

But when launching the study, Dr. Niklas Höhne, director of energy and climate policy at Ecofys, said: “The cap of the emissions trading system will need to be adjusted if energy efficiency and renewables targets are to be met.” This is because meeting those targets would also substantially cut emissions within the capped sectors of the bloc’s economy.

The study estimates that meeting the renewable and energy efficiency targets would result in a 29-43% reduction below the 2005 emissions baseline for the EU ETS by 2020, compared with just 21% reduction currently legislated. It says the cap would therefore need to be tightened accordingly, otherwise a fall in EU allowance prices would damage mitigation incentives.

A 30% reduction could also be achieved through greater use of international offset credits and land use change and forestry measures, it says.

The study says current energy efficiency efforts through the energy services, energy performance in buildings, eco-design and road transport directives need to be increased, or new energy efficiency targets need to be applied. There is large potential for savings, it adds.

On renewables, it says the 20% target is ambitious, but current policies need strengthening to meet it.

Both the European Commission’s low-carbon roadmap to 2050 (ENDS Report, March 2011) and updated energy efficiency action plan (ENDS Report, March 2011) have already conceded the bloc is falling short on the energy efficiency target. It will play a much larger part in the commission’s newly proposed 25% emissions reduction target for 2020.