Photographer: David Goddard/Getty Images

Europe at Risk of Missing 2030 Climate Goal, Researchers Say

  • EU needs to strengthen its carbon market, IDDRI institute says
  • Europe should consider phasing down coal in power, report says

The European Union risks missing its climate goals for the coming decades unless it strengthens pollution-reduction policies, according to the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations.

Despite significant progress in cutting carbon dioxide and improvement in energy efficiency, the EU may miss its target of cutting emissions by at least 40 percent by the end of the next decade and by at least 80 percent by 2050 compared with 1990 levels, the Paris-based institute, or IDDRI, said in a report on Tuesday.

“The rate of change is insufficient,” according to the report. “Too much of the change in aggregate emissions has been driven by cyclical effects” like the financial crisis and the bloc hasn’t adequately formulated options for industrial “long-term decarbonization.”

The 28-nation EU has sought to lead the global fight against climate change, which scientist blame for more frequent heatwaves, hurricanes and floods. The bloc submitted its 2030 target as a contribution to the United Nations’ climate deal that was agreed in December in Paris and entered into force earlier this month.

EU policy makers are currently debating draft measures on sharing the burden of emissions cuts among member states and on reforming the bloc’s Emissions Trading System to translate climate objectives for the next decade into specific rules. In order to put the region on track to meet the goals, those laws should be adopted "in the strongest possible form,” IDDRI said.

“The EU ETS desperately needs be strengthened to avoid the risk of low and ineffective carbon prices persisting well in the late 2020s,” according to the report.

The price of EU emission allowances slumped about 80 percent in the past eight years amid a surplus of permits aggravated by the economic crisis. The benchmark contract fell 2.3 percent to 6.09 euros a metric ton as of 10:33 a.m. in London on Tuesday. Before the system started in 2005, some policy makers expected the cost of discharging a ton of greenhouse gas to cost as much as 30 euros.

Given the lack of a price signal from the ETS, Europe should consider policies to phase down coal in power production, IDDRI recommended. By 2030, unabated coal needs to drop by more than 50 percent to make way for low-carbon electricity sources, it said.

“A failure to develop a smart retirement plan for unabated coal will continue to place pressure on EU electricity markets,” according to the report. “This risks, in turn, undermining progress towards efficient and better integrated power markets that are needed for the transition to high shares of low-carbon generation to occur.”

Europe should also adopt ambitious rules to cut transport emissions and help roll out clean-fuel cars, according to the institute. Targets and financing of energy-efficiency retrofitting and fuel switching in buildings should be strengthened, the researchers said.

“The EU needs a shake-up of current policies for decarbonizing energy-intensive and trade-exposed industries,” they wrote in the report. “A renewed focus on industrial decarbonization is necessary, given the inadequacy of the EU ETS signal and the fact that progress towards key decarbonization technologies in these industries has stalled.”

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