European climate ambitions are in danger of sliding backwards unless the region agrees more drastic emission reduction targets by 2030.
Campaign group Sandbag warn the EU’s current pledge to reduce emissions 20% by 2020 is virtually “irrelevant”, given the bloc’s emissions fell 27% below 1990 levels in 2012.
It says this means current ambitions “allow it to go backwards on climate change for the better part of the next decade”, and recommends the EU adopt “more ambitious emissions targets” in 2013.
The EU currently accounts for around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which rose globally in 2012 by 1.4%, according to the International Energy Agency.
This analysis is backed by a joint report by climate and energy consultants Ecofys and Greenpeace, which says the vast surplus of EU emission trading credits damages the integrity of any regional reduction target.
The European Commission estimates that by 2020, the companies participating in the emission trading scheme (ETS) will have accumulated a surplus of 1.5 to 2.3 billion allowances.
Each allowance or credit is equivalent to one tonne of C02, and currently these may be banked and used beyond 2020.
Ecofys calculates this “is about the same size” as the annual emissions budget of companies taking part in the ETS, and recommends a goal of 55% emission reduction cuts by 2030.
“If the entire surplus of allowances from the ETS were to be used after 2020, the 2030 target has to become around 7 percentage points more stringent to compensate for that,” the report reads.
“Alternatively, the trajectory of the target from 2021 to 2030 could be set to compensate for the surplus.”
Earlier this week UK Energy and Climate Minister Greg Barker said targets of that level were realistic, but indicated it would be a challenge to convince all member states to agree.
“We have been pressing within EU to adopt a mandatory binding emissions reductions target, not just for one sector but for the whole EU-wide economy, of a 40% reduction target by 2030,” he said at an Aldersgate Group meeting on Monday.
“And, if we can secure that deal in 2015 globally, we should be prepared to raise that to 50%. That is big business, and starting to make a substantial difference.
“Even in the context of the EU that is not enough if we can’t get action in concert with that, but I think if the EU can accept that it would be a powerful signal to the wider community.”
Plans to reduce the ETS budget surplus have proved politically sensitive. Poland has led efforts to rejecting moves which it argues would make its heavy industry and coal-based economy uncompetitive.
In April the European Parliament rejected a proposal to “backload” or postpone the release of 900 million credits until 2020, which would likely send the price of allowances – which are already low – tumbling into the abyss.
The EU Environment Committee is expected to send a new proposal to vote shortly.