EU Met 2012 Goals, on Track for 2020, Can Cut Emissions 80% by 2050

Submitted By: Nikhil R. Jain · Thu, 03/10/2011 - 17:06

The European Commission today formally adopted a Roadmap for transforming the European Union into a competitive low carbon economy by 2050. It has already surpassed the targets set for 2012, and is on track to achieve the goals for 2020. Its next plan for achieving the needed 80% – 95% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions is laid out in today’s Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050. (PDF)

The introduction to the Roadmap reports that the European Union is on track to meet its target of reducing emissions to 20% below 1990 levels and getting 20% of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020 (the 20/20/20 plan).

The 2009 progress report to the UN noted that the EU was likely to actually exceed its 8% below 1990 levels by 2012 target, with 2007 levels already at 5% below 1990 levels. The reduction came largely before the economic crisis at the end of 2008, and during a period of years that the EU economy grew by 44% in total.

By contrast – the efficiency target – how much actual energy use is reduced, for example, by more efficient appliances and insulation – is not as encouraging, with the EU only half way to the goal.

Surprisingly, as energy efficiency is widely thought to be the “low hanging fruit” – the easy way to reduce carbon emissions, only the UK has reduced actual energy use more than 5%. Germany used as much as before, France’s energy use actually rose 7%, and the EU on average, increased energy use 4%. Of course, German housing was already super-efficient, while British housing stock was not.

Even so, by 2050, the Commission says, Europeans will have largely made the transition to a very low carbon economy; living and working in low-energy and low-emission buildings, with intelligent heating and cooling systems, driving electric and hybrid cars and living in cleaner cities with less air pollution and better public transport.

The transition is expected to give the economy a boost thanks to increased investment in clean technologies and clean energy. Reducing energy consumption through efficiency could add 1.5 million jobs by 2020, and reduce energy consumption 30% by 2015, the Commission estimates.

The Roadmap finds that, to achieve the target, governments will need to invest 270 billion euros a year, on average, over the next four decades. During the same forty years, average savings would be greater than the investment, saving 320 billion euros every year.

Investment at that level – which would be 1.5% of GDP -  would bring Europe back to investment levels from before the economic crisis, and spur growth within a wide range of manufacturing sectors and environmental services in Europe.

Image: KFCatles

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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