Europe Needs to Cut Transport Emissions by 94% to Keep Climate Commitments

According to a new report by Germany’s Öko-Institut, Europe has its work cut out for it if it intends to stop the planet’s temperature rising above the two-degree limit agreed upon by world leaders at COP21. As it stands, the EU will need to cut global warming transport emissions by 94% by 2050 — a lofty goal that will require significant efforts be undertaken by all Member States.

The Paris Agreement, which came into effect in November 2016, sets the cap at two agrees above pre-industrial levels, with an aspirational goal of 1.5%. But climate experts warn that even a two-degree rise could have catastrophic impacts.

Transport currently accounts for almost a quarter of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). The European Commission reported that in 2014, road transport accounted for more than 70% of all transport GHG, which should come as no surprise, as 96% of the transport sector is based on polluting fossil fuels according to figures released in early December by the European Environment Agency.

In its research for NGO Transport & Environment, the Öko-Institut focused on the emissions targets currently under discussion at EU level for sectors such as transport.

To carry out their Paris Agreements, the EU drawn up to main pieces of climate legislation: the Emissions Trading System (ETS), which is currently under revision, and the Effort-Sharing Regulation (ESR).

The ETS governs the sectors covered in the world’s largest carbon market, while the ESR covers the sectors that aren’t, such as agriculture, buildings, heating, industrial processes, transport and waste.

Put forward by the European Commission in July 2016, the ESR sets a 30% emissions reduction target by 2030. The bill is now subject to amendment in the European Parliament and in the Council of Ministers, both of whom will ultimately have to come to agreement on a single, identical before it can become law.

According to Öko-Institut’s research, the 30% target translates to a 1% emissions reduction per year. However, to achieve the 94% GHG emissions goal, the number will need to be closer to 2% or 3%.

This will be no easy feat, as the ESR, which divides responsibility among Member States to reach an EU-wide target, is already receiving a significant amount of pushback, particularly from countries like Italy and Poland.

“The proposals by some governments would effectively halve the ambition level,” said Carlos Calvo Ambel of Transport & Environment. “They claim they’re just unhappy about the way the efforts are distributed, but if that’s really the problem, they should propose changes that don’t completely destroy the 2030 goals.”

Other programs, like the EC’s Clean Energy Package have also been met by similar challenges. If the EU intends to make good on its Paris promises, Member State participation, in the form of meaningful, ambitious national plans, and strong leadership on the part of the EC will be imperative.

The results of the study can be read in full on the Transport & Environment website.


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