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Greenhouse Gas Mitigation in the European Union

An Overview of the Current Policy Landscape

This report draws on projections from the “Energy Roadmap 2050” to assess whether the European Union is on track to reach its greenhouse gas (GHG), renewable energy, and energy efficiency targets. We find that the EU is on track to surpass its 2020 GHG reduction and renewable energy targets based on current policies, but that additional measures will be required to meet the 2020 energy-efficiency target and the 2050 GHG-reduction goal.

Executive Summary

In 2009, the European Union (EU) pledged a unilateral greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target of 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, rising to 30 percent if “other developed countries commit themselves to comparable emission reductions” (European Council 2009). The EU’s GHG target forms one pillar of a so-called 20-20-20 package that, in addition to the 20 percent GHG reduction, demands a 20 percent share of renewable energy sources in gross final energy consumption along with a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2020. In addition to its 2020 targets, the EU has also set a long-term GHG reduction goal of 80 to 95 percent from 1990 levels by 2050.

In the context of these goals, this report provides a summary of existing and emerging EU policies that are likely to reduce GHG emissions across the EU. Our analysis focuses on policies that are mandatory or provide a financial incentive, such as the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) – a cornerstone of EU climate policy – the Renewable Energy Directive, and the Biofuels Directive. We discuss the relationship of these policies to the EU’s GHG and energy targets, and identify key issues to watch in the EU’s evolving policy landscape.

This report draws on projections from the “Energy Roadmap 2050” to assess whether the EU is on track to reach its GHG, renewable energy and energy efficiency targets. We find that the EU is on track to surpass its 2020 GHG reduction and renewable energy targets based on current policies, but that additional measures will be required to meet the 2020 energy efficiency target and the 2050 GHG reduction goal.

New and emerging policies, including the Energy Efficiency Directive, reforms to the EU ETS, and a proposed Energy Taxation Directive, which aims to restructure taxes on energy products, provide options that can begin to bridge this gap. It will be important to monitor these developments, as well as the EU’s positioning in the international community vis-à-vis the possible strengthening of its 2020 target.

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