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Europe's new climate proposal lacks ambition and delivers less than business-as-usual emission cuts

20 July 2016
by Sandbag -- last modified 20 July 2016

Today, the European Commission has released a new proposal for cutting emissions in transport, agriculture and buildings sectors by 2030, and how this effort should be shared between Member States.


This proposal lacks ambition, has more loopholes than anyone expected and will not deliver Europe's contribution to the Paris Agreement. Europe must commit to much more, otherwise its long term 2050 target is not credible.

The draft proposal only targets a 30% reduction in emissions by 2030 against 2005 levels. Sandbag analysis shows that 50% cuts are achievable and can be delivered cost-effectively. The 30% target implies just a 4% cut in emissions beyond BAU between 2021-2030. But it's even worse than that; Sandbag calculates the Commission has thrown in so many loopholes through new flexibilities, that the new policy wouldn't require any emission cuts beyond BAU at all.

The proposal would allow a flood of emission credits from elsewhere to dilute the EU's climate ambition. In particular, credits from forestry and the Emissions Trading System (ETS) would mean that some Member States would do nothing to reduce their emissions at all against BAU.  The proposal also increases the 2021 allocations for certain Member States that were already allowed to increase their emissions in the period to 2020, and despite the fact that the Commission already establishes their national reduction targets based on the relative GDP/capita for solidarity reasons. This is hugely unfair; it is not creating a level playing field and is storing up trouble because, much greater and more costly, emission reductions will be needed between 2030 and 2050.

Collectively, these flexibilities would add 420Mt CO2e to the total budget and would mean that there is no need for Europe to reduce its emissions as a whole.

Sandbag welcomes that the proposal will not allow the vast surplus of annual allocations from the first phase of the effort sharing policy to be carried over.  This is vital for the integrity of EU climate policy. The Commission also plans to recalculate the starting point against actual emissions as they stand between 2016-2018, rather than what they were forecast to be.  This is a positive step, but must not reward those Member States who fail to meet their 2020 targets.

Debbie Stockwell, Managing Director of Sandbag, commented:

"The Commission's proposal simply does not go far enough.   In the light of the Paris Agreement, Europe must be  more ambitious in cutting emissions, delivering up to 50% by 2030, and make it easier for Member States to meet targets by including flexibilities that drive cost-effective emission reductions. 

The flexibilities proposed don't do that - they provide loopholes which mean that Europe doesn't have to make any additional effort to reduce emissions and will mean that emission reductions will need to happen more quickly, at greater cost after 2030."

Sandbag is a London and Brussels-based not-for-profit think tank conducting research and campaigning for environmentally effective climate policies. Its research focus includes reforming the EU Emissions Trading System and the Effort Sharing Decision; accelerating the phase-out of old coal in Europe; deep decarbonisation of industry through technologies including Carbon Capture and Storage.

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