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17th Feb 2019

EU must do more to fight climate change, report says

  • The EU needs to introduce more policies if it wants to remain on the pathway to achieve its long-term climate goals (Photo: Tambako The Jaguar)

Europe needs to introduce farther-reaching policies if it wants to achieve its long-term climate target, the EU's most important environmental body said in a report published Tuesday (3 March).

“The projected reductions of EU greenhouse gas emissions as result of implemented policies are insufficient to bring the EU on a pathway towards the 2050 decarbonisation target”, the European Environment Agency (EEA) writes in its quinquennial report "The European environment - state and outlook'.

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The earth's climate is changing due to human activities, but its impact may be limited if the average global temperature does not increase by more than two degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial times.

To stay below those two degrees, scientists say the member states of the EU have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 95 percent in 2050 (compared to 1990). The EU has adopted that goal.

However, reaching that goal “will be challenging”, the EEA writes.

The EU is close to achieving its shorter term target, being “very close” to meeting a 20 percent emissions reduction in 2020.

But existent measures “will be insufficient ” to achieve a 40 percent reduction by 2030, as agreed by EU government leaders in October 2014, let alone achieving the 2050 target.

The 2030 target was part of a so-called framework package on energy and climate, which the commission will elaborate into concrete proposals in the coming years.

“With the 2030 package, we are not there yet”, the agency's executive director Hans Bruyninckx told this website.

“I think everybody realises that it needs to be further developed”, he added.

Last week, the European Commission reaffirmed in a policy paper its ambition to “decarbonize” the economy. It announced legislation to revise the EU's emission trading system, and said a Renewable Energy Package will be proposed by 2017.

However, the paper fell short of specifying detailed proposals.

In some of the member states, there are doubts about the EU's long-term goal of decarbonizing its economy.

When asked about the policy paper and the EEA prediction, Poland's climate envoy Marcin Korolec said that the EU's decarbonization targets for 2050 were not “feasible”.

“Concerning decarbonization, I feel that taking today's technologies and today's situation in Europe, it is probably unrealistic”, Korolec told this website at a press briefing in Brussels on Monday.

“Taking into account existing technologies and in particular the existing economic situation of the Union, I don't see [as] feasible decarbonization of 90 percent in the perspective of 2050. Simply, I don't see an engine for that in Europe.”

Poland's climate envoy, a former environment minister, joked that by “2050, I hope I will not be on duty by that time”.

“We agreed a framework [with] the perspective of 2030. Let's concentrate now [on how] to deliver what we agreed on for 2030, that will require additional discussions and additional decisions”, said Korolec.

The European Union has about 500 directives, regulations, and decisions related to environmental law, according to the report, which praises many of the EU's environmental past policies.

“The overall findings point to successes in reducing environmental pressures … In many parts of Europe, the local environment is arguably in as good a state today as it has been since the start of industrialisation. Reduced pollution, nature protection and better waste management have all contributed”, the report noted.

“However, in several cases, local environmental trends continue to be a cause for concern, often due to insufficient implementation of agreed policies”.

Auditors raise alarm over air pollution in Europe

Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, and the Netherlands "have not taken sufficient action to improve air quality", according to a new report. In 2015, nearly 400,000 people in the EU died prematurely due to air pollution.

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