European Union

European Union and Climate Change

The European Union (EU) is the world’s third largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter after the United States and China, accounting for 13 percent of global emissions in 2005. The EU’s emissions intensity (GHG emissions per unit of GDP) is about a third lower than the United States’ and the second lowest among industrialized countries – only Japan’s is lower.  Intensity has declined 31 percent since 1990 (in the United States intensity reduced by 25 percent over the same time period).  Per capita emissions in the EU are about a third lower than the developed country average and about half those of the United States. 

The European Community and the EU member states are parties to the UN Framework Convention and the Kyoto Protocol. The 15 EU member states at the time of Kyoto’s negotiation agreed individually and collectively to reduce emissions 8 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

The EU has established the world’s most ambitious and far-reaching example of a GHG emissions trading system (ETS). The EU-ETS currently limits CO2 emissions from approximately 12,000 facilities in the 27 EU Member States. An initial “learning phase” (Phase I) ran through 2007; a second phase coincides with the Kyoto Protocol compliance period (2008-2012); and a third phase is planned for 2013-2020.

The EU has also shown its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the mid to longer-term by adopting a series of EU-wide policies to implement their “Energy and Climate Package”.

This includes:

  • A commitment to reduce the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, and 30% below if other developed countries agree to comparable reductions and economically advanced developing countries contribute according to their respective capabilities and responsibilities.  
  • A mandatory target to increase renewable energy to 20% of the EU’s overall energy mix by 2020, including a minimum of 10% biofuels in overall fuel consumption.
  • A binding target to improve energy consumption by 20 percent from projected 2020 levels. 

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