How The EU Can Cut Emissions 40% Below 1990 Levels By 2030

By Roy L Hales

If the world fulfills the pledges made at COP 21 it might be possible to keep the rise of average global temperatures to between 3.3 and 3.8 degrees above 1990 levels, but this may be unattainable. CO2 emissions reached an all-time high, with an increase of close to 3%, in 2018. Thanks to the oil sands and transportation sector, Canadians now pour more pollutants into the atmosphere (per capita) than any other nationality. The United States emissions rose 3.4% in 2018. The only good news comes from the, European Union which has already met its 2020 emissions target. Agora Energiewende has just released a report explaining how the EU can cut emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

Europe’s Challenge

Europe still has serious challenges to overcome, “With existing policies, also Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Germany, Denmark, Lithuania, Austria, Romania, Poland and Spain have projected to miss their 2030 targets by more than 10 pp.”[1] According to a press release from the European Commission:

Song y la ria (Portugal) by Iker Merodio via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)


“Over the past 4 years, EU emissions were reduced by 3%. Most of the reduction has taken place in the energy supply sector where emissions are down by 11%, or 156 Mt, as compared to 2013. Lower emissions from energy use in buildings, waste management and energy use in industry have also contributed.”

“On the other hand, emissions from transport, agriculture and international aviation have increased over the last 4 years. Transport emissions have increased by 7%, or 60 Mt, as compared to 2013, mainly due to growing emissions from road transport. Emissions from industrial processes have varied from year to year, showing no clear trend.”

The European Union is already spending 20% of its budget on climate-relevant action and proposes to increase this to 25% during 2021-2027.

Reduce Consumption

Bikes in the snow, Copenhagen – by Kristoffer Trolle via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

In “European Energy Transition 2030: The Big Picture“, Matthias Buck et al claim that Europeans will need to reduce their overall energy consumption to at least 17% by 2030 – and this is only the beginning: 

“Consumption will need to fall by at least a third and may even need to be halved by 2050 to achieve deep decarbonisation.”[2]

Drastically Cut Back On Fossil Fuel Usage

In order to meet its 2030 target, the EU must drastically cut back on fossil fuel usage. 

“Coal accounts for around a quarter of the EU’s electricity and heat generation, but for nearly three quarters of its CO2 emissions. Oil makes up 94% of final energy consumption in the transport sector and nearly all transport-related emissions. Gas accounts for one third of final energy consumption in buildings, but for nearly two thirds of emissions.”[3]

End Coal Demonstration in Poland by mw238 via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

Though they maintain there are still abundant fossil fuel reserves in the ground, the authors believe much of it needs to stay there if we want to hold the global temperature rise at 2 degrees. 

“The greenhouse gas target implies that coal [consumption] will need to be cut by half, gas to be reduced by 30 percent and oil by 25 percent – asking for socially just concepts for this transition.”[4]

As 185,000 Europeans are currently employed in the coal sector:

“Regions that are committedto phasing-out coal mining and coal use need specific support measures to attract new employers (companies, universities, research organizations) for worker retraining and infrastructure upgrades. In some cases, it will be possible to combine the phase-out of coal-related jobs with the creation of new-energy jobs, whether in renewables or in the emerging green hydrogen economy.”[4]

 Scale Up The Adoption of Renewables

In many parts of the world, wind and solar now produce power at lower costs than coal-fired, gas-fired, or nuclear power plants.[5] Consequently, 70% of the global capacity added in 2017 was renewable. 

Bligh Bank Windfarm by Askjell via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

 “Wind and solar combined will account for 53% of total net installed capacity by 2030, due in part to the need to add additional renewables to meet new power demand in other sectors with low carbon power. By 2050, Europe’s power sector will need to achieve far higher levels of renewables in the range of 81 to 85%.”[6]

Buck et al suggest adding 10 million solar rooftops. As of 2017, only 4.7 million out of Europe’s 219 million roofs had solar installations. The European Commission foster further adoption by partnering “with regional governments and agencies to develop custom packages that combine 

  1. a review of administrative and regulatory conditions for developing rooftop solar PV and identifying best practices for power system integration; 
  2. the creation of a financing strategy with the use of EU funds; and 
  3. the dedicated support of training programmes for new installers.[7]

CO2 Standards for Transportation

Transportation is the only sector where Europe’s emissions continue to rise. With the amount of passenger trips expected to rise 16% and freight 29%, this presents a significant emissions challenge. 

“More than half of the increase in passenger transport activity and two thirds of the increase in freight transport activity is set to come from road transport. Further signifi- cant increases are expected in rail transport (36%), domestic and international air transport (43%), and EU marine shipping (21%).45 Despite these develop- ments, energy consumption in the transport sector will fall by 10%, which will help to drive a reduction in overall oil consumption of roughly 25% (final energy demand).” 

Matthias Buck et al suggests that the key driver in these reductions is electrification.[8]

Traffic jam in the Place Charles de Gaulle Paris by Chris Waits via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

“The European Commission that takes office in November 2019 should propose by 2022 legislation that requires a 40% reduction in emissions from heavy-duty vehicles as well as a binding new sales quota for zero and low-emission vehicles (ZLEV) of at least 25% in 2030.”[9]

As a result of the expected EV tipping point, there could be 40 million electric cars travelling Europe’s roads.[10]

“In the past seven years, the costs of lithium-ion units have fallen by over 70% to around 200 euros per kilowatt hour. As a result, electric vehicles are now taking off in the mass market. Within the next years, the end-consumer price of a fully electric mid- size car is projected to fall below the end-consumer price of internal combustion cars, which represents another economic tipping point.”[11]

Energy Efficiency

One of the keys is energy efficiency. Buildings currently consume 2/3 of the continents electricity.[12] The pace of energy efficiency refits needs to accelerate. Approximately 1% of Europe’s buildings are currently being renovated every year. This number needs to double. Matthias Buck et al suggest that the European Commission:

 “launch and co-fund 5–10 pilot projects per member state in partnership with national agencies, cities, and industries. The purpose of the projects is to demonstrate the feasibility of industrialized renovation of existing buildings. The European Commission should also organize accompanying studies to identify barriers and costs.” [13]

Another 100 European cities need to initiate the decarbonization of their heating and cooling networks by 2025. [14]

Digitalization

Matthias Buck et al, European Energy Transition 2030: The Big Picture, Agora Energiewende, 03/2019. Figure 4

“Digitalization is indeed a key enabler of the energy transition because it allows the co-ordination of supply and demand in real time. The sharing economy enables consumers to use cars and bikes with unprecedented convenience. Smart home systems optimize the use of rooftop solar installations, heating systems, battery storage, and electric vehicle charging and thereby help integrate renewables into the power grid. Value creation in the energy and transport sectors no longer comes from the sale of kilowatt hours, fuel or automobiles alone, but increasingly also from data-driven energy services.” 

“In the future, self-driving cars, peer-to-peer trading and AI-based grid monitoring will become part of the picture.” [15]

Green Cities

Almost three quarters of Europe’s population live in cities: 

“ …Cities are becoming laboratories for low-carbon lifestyles and for electrification. Novel mobility solutions such as car, bike or ride sharing or cargo bike deliveries are easiest to implement in cities where shorter distances allow for life without private car ownership. Cities are also key markets for electric vehicles. These concepts are increasingly part of urban planning, as they increase quality of life by freeing up public space, reducing noise, pollution, and accidents. The proximity of industrial facilities and buildings also allows for dis- tributing waste heat from factories through district heating networks. Smaller heat networks fuelled by renewables, heat pumps, and cogeneration enable the creation of new, zero-carbon neighbourhoods. 

“Increasingly, city governments are also asserting their growing relevance with decisions that influence policy-making at the national level. Examples include Paris’ ban on diesel cars in the city centre by 2030, Oslo’s comprehensive measures to support electric vehicles and New York City’s decision to divest its fossil fuel-linked investments.”[16]

The Rest Of The World

Hafencity, Hamburg by Aleksandr Zykov via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

Europe is showing the way to reduce global emissions. How long will it take the rest of the world to notice?

Today, the United States announced it “will drive global oil supply growth over the next five years thanks to the remarkable strength of its shale industry.” It hopes to account “for 70% of the total increase in global capacity to 2024, adding a total of 4 mb.”

Natural Resources Canada predicts that “in the next 25 years oil sands production in Canada will increase by approximately 2.5 million barrels per day.” However the Auditor General’s report says Canada will exceed its 2020 emissions target by 20% and seven of Canada’s  twelve provinces and territories do not have emissions targets.

Meanwhile the developing world is struggling to catch up with the West. Consequently, the greatest emissions increases occurred in China (4.7%) and India (6.3%), which still lag far behind the West in terms of the per capita carbon footprint.

4 To 6 Degree Celsius Temperature Rise

The pledges made at COP 21 were meant to be a starting point, not the goal for an attempt to reduce global emissions. They were expected to lead to further commitments, that would result in the rise of average global temperatures being held at between 1.5 and 2 degrees celsius. Last Fall, the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration admitted the world is on course for a global temperature rise of roughly 4 degrees celsius by 2100. Many scientists now believe 6 degrees is more likely.

Photo from Northern Norway (not the Arctic) – Johnny Myreng Henriksen via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

According to the World Bank study “Turn Down The Heat:

The 4°C scenarios are devastating: the inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates; many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves in many regions, especially in the tropics; substantially exacerbated water scarcity in many regions; increased frequency of high-intensity tropical cyclones; and irreversible loss of biodiversity, including coral reef systems.

“And most importantly, a 4°C world is so different from the current one that it comes with high uncertainty and new risks that threaten our ability to anticipate and plan for future adaptation needs.

“The lack of action on climate change not only risks putting prosperity out of reach of millions of people in the developing world, it threatens to roll back decades of sustainable development.”

Top Photo Credit: Placa Solar Fotovoltaica – Taken at Port Forum in Barcelona by Matt Clark via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

Footnotes

[1] “EU and the Paris Climate Agreement: Taking stock of progress at Katowice COP.” REPORT FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL, Brussels 26/10/2018, p 3

[2] Matthias Buck et al, European Energy Transition 2030: The Big Picture, Agora Energiewende, 03/2019, p 13; [3] Ibid, p 28; [4] ibid, p 3; [5] Ibid,  p 15; [6] Ibid,  p 31; [7] Ibid, p 64; [8] Ibid,  p 7; [9] Ibid,  p 74; [10] Ibid,  p 7; [11]   Ibid,  p 15; [12] Ibid, p 3; [13] Ibid, p 64; [14] Ibid, p 68; [15] Ibid, p 64; [16] Ibid,  p 15

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