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EU raises the bar – but is it high enough?

Towards the end of last year, the EU Commission published  a long-term climate strategy for the EU. The paper raises earlier targets and proposes a climate-neutral EU by the year 2050.

The EU Commission communication will now be discussed in the European Parliament and European Council. The aim is to be in a position to establish a long-term strategy by no later than the beginning of 2020 as part of global climate efforts and as a continuation of the Paris Agreement.

The communication includes many important messages. The Commission states that the entire European economy needs modernising and that initiatives need to be implemented earlier. The document also highlights several important areas such as energy efficiency measures, the replacement of fuels to move away from fossil fuels, utilising a bio-based and circular economy and to expand technology for carbon capture. That all these areas need to be combined is of significance. Any of these strategies on their own will not be enough.

I personally envisage a need to also discuss demand limiting measures to a greater extent. If the focus lies on efficiency gains and technological developments, there is a risk that consumption will increase that will eat up the gains of efficiency improvements. There is therefore a need to work in parallel with technological measures and actions that limit and change demand.

The communication also highlights the importance of levying charges on emissions of greenhouse gases. In such cases, this ought to mean that emissions that are largely exempt from charges or taxes today, such as from food production and international transport, are also taxed which would increase opportunities for cost effective measures. It could also lead to being paid for negative emissions, something that is perhaps necessary to make this worth pursuing.

One important question is whether this strategy goes far enough to achieve the Paris Agreement goals on limiting global warming to two degrees and aiming for 1.5 degrees. It is doubtful whether emissions will be reduced quickly enough for this and if the strategy will lead to negative emissions beyond 2050. It is therefore important to continue to discuss these issues, not least in association with the elections to the European Parliament that will play a role in what decisions are taken.

Tip of the week: Södertälje Science Week. Plenty of interesting discussions and activities. More about the programme here