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Climate and Energy

Facts and figures

In 2014 the EU was the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide with 10 per cent of world total after China (30 per cent) and the United States (15 per cent).

(Trends in global CO2 emissions, 2015 Report)

In 2012 greenhouse gas emissions in the EU was 4682.9 million tonnes of CO2-equivalents. That was an overall reduction of 17.9 per cent compared with 1990.

In 2013 fossil fuels accounted for 72.2 per cent of primary energy consumption in the EU whereas renewables accounted for 12.6 per cent.

(Eurostat: Energy, transport and environment indicators 2015)

Commitments, Distribution, and Monitoring

The EU committed itself to taking action against anthropogenic climate change in the early 1990s and has often played a leading role in the attempts to agree on and implement effective measures at international level for curbing greenhouse gas emissions.1 The Union is party to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)2 and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC.3 The Framework Convention aims to achieve stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.4 This commitment was elaborated through

  • 1 On the early measures by the EC in the field of climate change policy, see L Kramer EU Environmental Law (7th edn, Sweet & Maxwell, 2012) 308—9.
  • 2 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (New York, 9 May 1992) 1771 UNTS 107. The then EC approved of the Convention through 94/69/EC: Council Decision concerning the conclusion of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate

Change [1994] OJ L 33/11.

  • 3 Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Kyoto, 11 December 1997) 2303 UNTS 162. The EC approved of the Protocol by means of 2002/358/ EC: Council Decision concerning the approval, on behalf of the European Community, of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the joint fulfilment of commitments thereunder [2002] OJ L 130/1.
  • 4 UNFCCC, Art 2.

EU Environmental Law and Policy. David Langlet and Said Mahmoudi. © David Langlet and Said Mahmoudi 2016. Published 2016 by Oxford University Press.

the Kyoto Protocol by which the industrialised parties to the UNFCCC (the so- called Annex I parties) committed to quantified emission limitations compared to the baseline year of 1990. The extent of the reductions, or in some cases limited increases, undertaken by each Annex I party which is also party to the Protocol was specified in Annex B to the Protocol.

The initial Kyoto commitment period was 2008—12. The Protocol was eventually extended to cover a second period of 2013—20 but with significantly fewer States making commitments. In the 2011 Doha amendment, the EU and its Member States committed to an emissions reduction of at least 20 per cent by

2020.5 Reaching a comprehensive international agreement proved very hard, with several high-level meetings making little progress. However, in late 2015 the so-called Paris agreement was concluded by the Parties to the UNFCCC.[1] [2] While being much less specific about the commitments of individual Parties than the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement is most significant for committing all categories of Parties, developed and developing, to undertake climate change abatement measures. It is also seen as symbolically important that the Parties agree to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above such levels. To this end each Party undertakes to prepare, communicate, and maintain successive nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that it intends to achieve. New NDCs are to be communicated every five years, thereby promoting progression in climate change mitigation. Domestic mitigation measures must be pursued with the aim of achieving the objectives of NDCs.[3]

The fifteen States that were EU members at the time of the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol decided to use the possibility for Parties to fulfil their commitments jointly.[4] [5] The Union and these Member States were therefore jointly responsible for reducing their aggregate anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions covered by the Protocol by 8 per cent compared to 1990.® However, this 8 per cent emission decrease was redistributed internally within the EU by means of the so-called Effort Sharing Decision of 2002.[6] [7] A new such decision was taken in 2009, comprising also the States that had joined the Union since 2002.n The national efforts range from a 20 per cent increase in greenhouse gas emissions levels between 2005 and 2020 for Bulgaria to decreases of between 10 and 20 per cent for most old EU members.

In 2003 the EU adopted its emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) as its main instrument for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in a cost-effective manner. Since it covers about 40 per cent of the EU’s emissions, other measures were also needed. At its meeting in May 2007 the European Council made an independent commitment to achieve at least a 20 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared to 1990, and also endorsed, subject to certain conditions, as an EU objective to increase that reduction to 30 per cent as the Union’s contribution to a global and comprehensive agreement for the period beyond 2012. A goal was also set to raise the share of EU energy consumption produced from renewable resources to 20 per cent by 2020. Furthermore, the Council adopted an energy plan aiming for increased energy efficiency in the EU so as to achieve the objective of saving 20 per cent of the EU’s energy consumption compared to projections for 2020.12

These three targets, that is, a 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990, at least 20 per cent energy from renewable resources, and saving 20 per cent of the EU’s energy consumption compared to projections—all by 2020—are referred to as the EU’s ‘20-20-20 by 2020’ targets. In connection with this, the European Council also adopted as a target that at least 10 per cent of transport fuel in each Member State should be from renewable sources by 2020.13

  • [1] UNFCCC CMP 8, Decision 1/CMP.8 (28 February 2013) FCCC/KP/CMP/2012/13/Add.1,Annex I.
  • [2] See UNFCCC COP21, Draft decision -/CP.21 Adoption of the Paris Agreement. Proposal by thePresident (12 December 2015) FCCC/CP/2015/L.9/Rev. 1, Annex.
  • [3] Ibid, Art 4. 8 Regarding this possibility see Art 4 of the Kyoto Protocol.
  • [4] 9 The greenhouse gases covered are set out in Annex A to the Protocol.
  • [5] 10 Dec 2002/358/EC (n 3).
  • [6] 11 Decision No 406/2009/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the effort of
  • [7] Member States to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to meet the Community’s greenhouse gasemission reduction commitments up to 2020 [2009] OJ L 140/136.
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