Effort sharing decision proposal to help EU deliver on COP21 commitments

The upcoming effort sharing decision proposal could be the means to help Europe to deliver on its COP21 climate change targets, writes Kathleen Van Brempt.

Kathleen Van Brempt | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

By Kathleen Van Brempt

30 Jun 2016

Our focus and priority, when debating and drafting the forthcoming effort sharing decision (ESD), should be ambition to lead the global community towards reaching climate change goals. 

Our ambition isn't about seeking glory, but rather achieving what is necessary to avoid disasters for the generations to come. More importantly, it's about shaping a healthy, secure and sustainable economy, boosting competitiveness and job creation.

The facts and figures we know of today tell us that we need to keep global temperature "well below" 2°C, as agreed in the Paris agreement by 195 nations worldwide. The agreement was definitely a stunning success, but now we need to put our money where our mouth is and take action.


In 2014, EU heads of state agreed on new targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases by 2030. Those emissions under the emission trading system (ETS) will have to be reduced by 43 per cent from 2005 levels. 

So called non-ETS emissions, covering some 55 per cent of the EU's total greenhouse gas emissions - deriving from transport, buildings and agriculture - must be reduced by 40 per cent. 

ETS is currently under full discussion in the European Parliament, with Ian Duncan's recent ITRE committee report. Now, the much awaited ESD proposal from the European Commission should make the ESD-targets legally binding for member states.

In doing so, we must practice what we preach and deliver on our Paris COP21 commitments. The initial target of limiting greenhouse gas emissions was based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenario to keep global temperature increase under 2°C. But the Paris agreement has sharpened that target and states that it should now be "well below" 2°C.

It is no secret that a target of 1.5°C is preferable. When the figures change, ambitions must change accordingly. This can be done by introducing the ratchet mechanism into the structure of our policy framework, and the legally enforceable components of the ESD package. In this way, we can install commitment cycles and increase ambition when needed.

Ratcheting was also used in the Paris agreement for the so-called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) in which countries determined their contributions. If, after the stock taking of national contributions, extra reduction measures are agreed upon at the international level, these must also be translated into more ambitious ESD targets.

In order for the ESD package to be effective, and to help member states reach their targets, the European Commission must underpin it with policies and measures at community level to help reduce transport, agricultural and buildings' emissions.

The energy savings potential in buildings, and their possible contribution to reaching our climate goals, is huge. Forty per cent of our final energy is used in buildings; that's 36 per cent of total CO2 emissions.

The largest chunk of energy used in a building goes in heating and cooling. Lowering the energy demand in buildings is one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways of reaching our climate goals, while, at the same time, boosting energy security and creating jobs. 

Therefore, we need clear and ambitious measures for tackling our building stock and improving our heating and cooling systems. These need to be imbedded when revising the energy efficiency directive, the renewable energy directive and the energy performance of buildings directive, all in the pipeline for the months to come.

Without additional action, transport emissions will essentially remain constant until 2030. Extra European policies and measures are needed.

These have to be implemented in the announced communication and action plan on the decarbonisation of transport. This action plan must foresee the introduction of fuel economy standards for heavy duty vehicles and follow the example of the US, China and Japan.

Heavy duty vehicles account for less than five per cent of all traffic on the roads, but represent 25 per cent of road transport's fuel use and carbon emissions. New standards would help kickstart the market for ultra-fuel efficient trucks. Fuel efficient trucks will save money, boost the economy and protect the environment.

The action plan on the decarbonisation of transport should also learn lessons from the Dieselgate crisis and leapfrog over clean diesel right into the electric era. 

Instead of putting all our effort into the development of new clean diesel, carmakers should focus on the development of affordable zero-emission cars. A combined effort can create the needed scale to lower costs significantly, and the Commission action plan should support this. 

With extra measures on charging infrastructure, green public procurement rules and the introduction of zero emission vehicles mandates, imposing an increasing minimum share of zero emission vehicles in the car fleet, we can attain higher levels of ambition. 

The electrification of transport will help us meet our climate change targets, help clean up our skies and place European carmakers at the forefront of innovation again. In this way, carmakers can be a part of the solution instead of being a part of the problem.


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