Looking Ahead With 20/20/20 Vision
European Union works on series of emissions and energy reduction goals with 2020 in mind

The high profile and controversial Copenhagen climate summit may have left some energy industry observers feeling dubious about how successfully emissions could be curbed. But according to Jos Delbeke, director general, Directorate-General for the Environment at the European Commission, Europe can meet significant emission targets. “The EU [European Union] has the instruments in place,” Delbeke said.

The EU’s leaders continue to work toward achieving what is being called 20/20/20 targets a series of energy and climate goals to be met by 2020.
The EU’s leaders continue to work toward achieving what is being called 20/20/20 targets a series of energy and climate goals to be met by 2020.

The Directorate-General for the Environment is one of more than 40 Directorates-General and services that make up the European Commission. Known as DG Environment, its objective is to “protect, preserve and improve the environment for present and future generations.” The DG makes sure that Member States correctly apply EU environmental law and investigates complaints made by citizens and nongovernmental organizations, and can take legal action if it believes EU law has been infringed.

Delbeke’s comments come as the EU’s leaders continue to work toward achieving what is being called 20/20/20 targets a series of energy and climate goals to be met by 2020. The EU leaders
also offered to increase emissions reduction to 30% if other large-scale emitters in developed and developing worlds commit to do their share under a global climate agreement.

These targets are a 20% reduction in primary energy use compared with projected levels to be achieved through energy efficiency; a reduction of EU greenhouse gas emissions of at least
20% below 1990 levels; and a decree that 20% of EU energy consumption is to come from renewable sources.

To implement these 20/20/20 targets, the Commission proposed what it described as “complementary legislation.” The mainstay of this included a bolstering of the Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), which the European Union hopes will be an important method for reducing emissions in a cost-effective manner. From 2013 there will be a single European Unionwide cap on emissions allowances, and this will be reduced annually cutting the number of allowances available to business to 21% below the level of 2005 in 2020.

The Commission said that the free allocation of allowances will be gradually replaced by auctioning, and the sectors and gases covered by the system will be expanded. An additional major piece of legislation is the “Effort Sharing Decision,” which governs emissions from sectors not covered by the EU ETS including waste, agriculture, transport and housing. Under the decision, each Member State agrees to a binding national emission limitation target for 2020 that reflects its relative wealth.

Other parts of the legislation package include a legal framework to promote carbon capture and storage that captures the carbon dioxide emitted by industrial processes and stores it underground where it can’t add to potential global warming. Furthermore, the package of legislation included binding national targets for renewable energy with one of the goals being to slash the EU’s dependence on imported energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the proposals, also known as the “20/20/20 deal” were not without critics, many of whom suggested that greenhouse gas reduction targets could be met by buying “offsets” from outside of Europe rather than through real action at home. This, opponents claimed, would mean that emissions from the non-industrial sector (for example, households) may only fall by 3% by 2020.

A further gripe was that the EU backed away from introducing penalties such as fines, which would force countries to reach their national targets. Critics claimed that against such a backdrop, some governments would easily lose their resolve to meet their goals. It has also been proposed that the EU must adopt domestic measures and take the lead internationally to ensure that global average temperature increases do not exceed preindustrial levels by more than 2°C. Against this backdrop, when asked if he felt that Europe is on track  in terms of the timetable  to meet the 2020 targets, Delbeke said, “Absolutely.”

He added, “With the legal adoption of the package, the EU has the instruments in place to deliver the 20% independent commitment. Detailed technical implementation in different
legislative initiatives such as the EU emission trading system and the CO2 and cars legislation is on track.” Asked if he thought that other major emitting countries in the developed and developing worlds are doing their share Delbeke said, “The Copenhagen outcome, although falling short of the EU’s expectations, provides a basis on which to work further.

“The aggregate level of reduction commitments notified by parties reflects more or less the offers known in Copenhagen already, which did not add up to what is required by science
in order to stay within the 2° objective. “However, the essential fact is that all important players developed and developing countries included  submitted their actions or nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) to the United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is an encouraging signal, and they have agreed to monitoring, reporting and verification.

“This is a basis not only to build upon for the continuing negotiations, but also for significant financing for climate action, including fast start directed toward developing countries,” said Delbeke.


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