Gigatonne gap in the EU pledge for Paris climate summit

Climate action| Global transition

The EU’s carbon budget for the period 2021-2030 can vary by a staggering 6 billion tonnes. This gap is the result of important policy decisions that have been postponed for after the Paris climate summit, reveals new research by Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe.

CAN Europe urges the EU Environment Ministers meeting on September 18th in an extra Environment Council on the EU position for the Paris climate summit, to tackle the lack of transparency and accuracy of the EU’s pledge for Paris.

In a report titled Gigatonne gap in the EU pledge for Paris Climate Summit, CAN Europe translated the EU’s 2030 target of at least 40% emission reductions, which constitutes the EU’s contribution to the new climate agreement to be signed in Paris in December, into the exact amount of greenhouse gases the EU could emit between 2021 and 2030. The analysis reveals that depending on political choices that the EU Member States have postponed for after the Paris summit, the EU’s “carbon budget” for the period from 2021 till 2030 will vary from 37 to 43 bn tonnes of greenhouse gases. This means a gap of a staggering 6 billion tonnes: substantially more than the EU’s current annual emissions (4.5 bn tonnes in 2012) and six times more than annual emissions from its transport sector (0.9 bn tonnes in 2012).

The EU pledge for the Paris agreement lacks ambition and clarity on crucial policy issues – Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network Europe said. The EU goes to Paris with an offer containing important blind spots, which undermine its credibility. We have no clarity over six gigatonnes of greenhouse gases, which, if emitted, would have severe consequences for climate change.

This lack of clarity relates to:

  • the carry-over of surplus emissions in the Emissions Trading Scheme (2.6 billion tonnes)
  • accounting of emissions from forestry (1.835 billion tonnes)
  • the possible carry-over of surplus emissions in the non-ETS sectors (0.7 billion tonnes)
  • the level of non-ETS emissions that the budget will start from in 2021 (0.878 billion tonnes).

CAN Europe’s report comes a few days before the next Environment Council on September 18th, when EU Environment Ministers will adopt the EU position for the Paris climate summit in December.

EU Member States have quietly shifted important decisions about the exact level of emission reductions in the EU for after the Paris summit – Trio adds. We urge Environment Ministers to put their cards on the table and make the EU’s contribution to the climate agreement clear and comprehensive. We call for the EU climate target to be increased and for policies which will prevent the use of all kinds of tricks to lower the level of reductions, so that the EU can play a true leadership role in the Paris climate negotiations.

The EU is a strong defender of the “no backsliding” principle, asking countries to have more ambitious targets after 2020 than before. For the EU itself, this means going beyond the Kyoto Protocol’s 20% target for 2013-2020. CAN’s analysis reveals that in the most ambitious scenario, average annual emission reductions for 2021-2030 will be around 35% below 1990 emissions, in the worst case scenario – only around 25%. The latter means that instead of significantly decreasing emissions, the EU would lower them only marginally below its Kyoto Protocol target.

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