EU agreement of 40% carbon cuts by 2030 condemned as unambitious and far below what is needed

The EU came to an agreement on 23rd October, to make an overall cut of 40% in carbon emissions, compared to their 1990 level, by 2030. Though proclaimed by governments etc as a huge achievement, in reality it is nothing of the sort. The UK regrettably lobbied to weaken the targets. The 40% target includes some credits from emissions trading with countries outside the EU, so the actual targets are only 27% for energy efficiency, and 27% for renewable energy. Friends of the Earth points out that the EU had already achieved a 20% cut in emissions by 2012, meaning that it is pretty much business-as-usual for the years till 2030, with such a lax target. Leading climate scientist Professor Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre sent an open letter to David Cameron about the inadequacy of the EU targets. This letter explains why, for the chance of it being “likely” that we do not exceed the international community’s 2°C commitment, requires the EU to reduce the emissions from its energy system by 80% by 2030, with complete decarbonisation just a few years later.  Not a mere 40% by 2030.  


Friends of the Earth comment:
EU2030 climate decision puts polluters’ interests first

Reacting to new EU targets for tackling climate change agreed last night, Asad Rehman, international climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth said:

“David Cameron has written himself into history alongside Canadian PM Stephen Harper and Australian leader Tony Abbott as the men who were willing to turn their backs on climate science, on the demands of their people and on the everyday reality of devastating climate impacts. 

“This decision has put the interests of polluters ahead of the interests of people and the planet. Cameron may attempt to spin this backward step on climate as progress but it has effectively shut the door on limiting temperature rises to 2c and that will have devastating consequences for the poorest countries in the world.

“This decision is bad for jobs, the economy and people’s needs. The only winners will be the dirty energy corporations who have panicked Cameron into giving them a fat cheque and a renewed license to pollute.”


Notes to editors

1. The UK government convinced other countries to back their proposal for the EU climate and energy package to consist of only a binding but weak emissions reduction target and non-binding weak targets on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

2.  40% target – a number that sounds much higher than it is?

The greenhouse target of 40% is a 27% domestic emissions target in real terms (once surplus hot air credits from the discredited Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and ESD surplus are included). The EU has already reached a target of 20% cuts by 2012. For the next 18 years EU emissions cuts could slow down to a crawl.

The EU (28) GHG target in 2020 is 20% on 1990 levels.

According to the EU’s own statistics the EU was at 19.2% in 2012 on 1990 levels – which means that the 2020 target will have been met with 8 years still to go.

In million tonnes of CO2 that means:

  • In 1990 the EU was emitting 5626 MTCO2 pollutants
  • In 2012 the EU was emitting 4544 MTCO2 pollutants

with a legally binding target under the Kyoto Protocol of 4398 MTCO2 emissions by 2020.

The 40% target in 2030 being proposed by the UK Govt at the EU Council meeting would mean that in 2030 the EU would be emitting 3375 MTCO2 pollutants.

However the ETS surplus credits which are handed out as free permits to pollute could add in a worst case scenario an additional right to emit 1350 MTCO2 emissions. Alternatively these 1350 will be phased across the 10 year period, slowing the transformation and effort required each year. Please see chart here.

That target for 2030 would therefore not be ambitious than the target for 2020. In essence that means that the EU could take no action between 2012 to 2020. And then between 2020 and 2030 the EU 40% target could mean very little additional action.

3. Is the EU target of 40% a fair share of the global effort needed to keep temperatures below 2c?

Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland together with the support of Stockholm Environment Institute have launched a website to calculate all countries’ fair share of global effort needed to avoid dangerous climate change. It would mean that the EU would actually need to be at negative 3800 MTCO2 by 2030.

Since the EU could no longer deliver all its emissions domestically it would need to help finance actions outside of the EU as part of its mitigation effort. According to FoE EWNI’s statistics this would be a domestic emissions target and an international finance target.

The EU should be at 1462 MTCO2 emissions – which is –74% domestic target for 2030 on 1990 levels and $345 billion in climate finance transfers

4. Is the UK championing an ambitious approach to the Paris COP in 2015? See an analysis by Friends of the Earth of the UK’s approach to the Paris COP in 2015.

5. Is the UK responsible for weak energy renewable energy targets?

The UK also lobbied heavily for a non binding and weak 27% renewable energy target – this represents barely more than business-as–usual and will send a dangerous signal to UK investors that the EU renewables policy is being abandoned. The current renewables directive Europe has developed certain production volumes up to 2020. The target of 27% by 2030 however breaks continuity from 6.4% per cent per year between 2010 and 2020 to 1.4% per cent per year, between 2020 and 2030. The target is so weak that its estimated that the same level of renewables could be achieved without any target. For more informations see:

6. Is the UK responsible for weak energy efficiency targets?

The UK was also responsible for pushing for non binding energy efficiency targets. Despite energy efficiency being seen as the 1st fuel the UK finally accepted a 27% energy efficiency target rather than its initial proposal of 25% as long as the targets were not binding at a national level. This target fails to meet even the EU’s own very conservative analysis which showed higher targets delivered a huge boost for jobs, the economy and energy security. In effect Cameron has sacrificed British jobs, British warm homes, lower gas imports from abroad as well as a possible 2.68% increase in UK GDP because of pressure from eurosceptics in his and other parties. Gas imports for example are expected to fall by just 12% with a 27% target, compared to 22% with a 30% target and 40% with a 40% target.

7. Are the current targets in line with climate science?

Leading climate scientist Professor Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre sent an open letter to David Cameron about the inadequacy of the EU targets.

IPCC Vice Chair Professor Jim Skea also says that EU targets will fail to protect the climate.

8. There are widespread concerns over the new EU Commission. Friends of the Earth Europe together with other leading green groups have expressed serious reservations about the new Commissions commitment to the environment and to tackling climate change.

9. Friends of the Earth is campaigning against fracking and for clean alternatives like solar power.

Open letter from Professor Kevin Anderson to the PM outlining how 2°C demands an 80% cut in EU emissions by 2030

Below is an open letter (22nd Oct. 2014) to both the UK’s Prime Minister and the Secretary of State at the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) [Ed Davey].

The letter summarises why the IPCC’s carbon budgets for a “likely” chance of not exceeding the international community’s 2°C commitment, requires the EU to reduce the emissions from its energy system by 80% by 2030, with complete decarbonisation just a few years later.



22nd October 2014

RE: The EU 2030 decarbonisation target and the framework for climate and energy policies

Dear Prime Minister and Secretary of State,

I wish to state my grave concern about the proposed ‘2030 framework for climate and energy policies’ that is to be finalised at this week’s European Council meeting of heads of state and senior ministers. If the 40% target proposed in the earlier Green Paper [1] is adopted, the EU will be signalling its dismissal of the IPCC’s carbon budgets associated with a 2°C rise in global temperature. It will give priority to politically expediency at the expense of scientific integrity, irrevocably damaging the climate change negotiations in Paris 2015.

My chief concern with the framework relates to the Commission’s assertion that “emissions would need to be reduced by 40% in the EU to be … consistent with the internationally agreed target to limit atmospheric warming to below 2°C”[1]. Whilst such a position may have political traction, it is in direct breach of the EU’s repeated commitment to reduce its emissions “consistent with science and on the basis of equity”[2].

The IPCC’s budgets for a “likely”[3] chance of not exceeding 2°C, accompanied by weak allowances for equity, demand the EU deliver, at least, an 80% reduction in emissions from its energy system by 2030, with full decarbonisation shortly after.

This stark contrast with the Green Paper’s proposed 40% reduction arises from two principal issues.

1) The IPCC’s “likely” carbon budgets The IPCC’s budgets, for a “likely” chance of not exceeding the 2°C target, range from around 600 to 1200 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (GtCO2) for the period 2011-2100 [4]. To put this in context, in the four years since 2011 almost 150 billion tonnes have already been emitted; i.e. between a quarter and an eighth of the total carbon budget for the rest of the century. To estimate the budget for energy-only carbon, it is necessary to subtract emissions from deforestation and cement production [5]. Even with stringent control on emissions from these sectors, the remaining carbon budget for energy equates to as few as 5 and at the most 20 years of emissions equivalent to those in 2014 [6].

2) The inclusion of equity when apportioning emissions to regions The EU has acknowledged the need for its emissions to reach a peak and subsequently begin reducing well before those of industrialising and poorer nations. Even today, the carbon intensity of a typical Chinese person’s lifestyle is considerably lower than that of their European counterpart (5.9 tonnes p.a. per person compared with 9.4 for the EU28, rising to 10.1 and 11.4 tonnes for the UK and Germany respectively [7]). Under even the most stringent deal at the Paris 2015 negotiations, it is doubtful that the industrialising and poorer nations will collectively reach a peak in their emissions before 2025. However, if this were to be achieved, and if by the 2030s they deliver mitigation rates similar to those of the wealthier nations, the “likely” carbon budget remaining for the EU, USA etc. demands immediate double-digit mitigation rates [8].

Put simply, the basic arithmetic of: (1) the IPCC’s 2°C carbon budgets; (2) highly optimistic assumptions on deforestation and cement; (3) stringent emissions pathways for industrialising and poorer nations; and (4) the EU’s oft-cited commitment on 2°C; requires the European Council to increase the 2030 target to, at least, an 80% reduction in emissions.

Alternatively, if the Green Paper’s 40% target is adopted, the EU should be honest about why it has chosen to renege on it previous 2°C commitments. Moreover, it should explain the reasoning for judging the challenges of stringent mitigation as more onerous than the increased risk of dangerous repercussions for poorer and climatically more vulnerable communities.

I understand the enormous political difficulties for European heads of state in developing a transparent and evidence-based mitigation agenda. However, the reasons for today’s climate dilemma reside in our prolonged abject failure to set in train an effective programme of mitigation. A quarter of a century on from the IPCC’s first report, the carbon intensity of a typical EU citizen’s lifestyle remains unchanged [7]. I urge you to resist the vested interests calling for continued inaction and instead drive for an ambitious policy framework “consistent with science” and developed on “the basis of equity”. Ultimately, this will be the legacy we bequeath to future generations.

Yours sincerely

Kevin Anderson

Professor of Energy and Climate Change
Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research University of Manchester
PA- Amrita Sidhu, tel: +44(0)161 306 3700


[1] Green Paper, A 2030 framework for climate and energy policies. Brussels, 27.3.2013 COM(2013) 169 final

[2] Report of the Conference of the Parties; fifteenth session; Copenhagen, 7 to 19 December 2009. See also: President Barroso on the results of the L’Aquila summit; European Commission, MEMO/09/332; 10/07/2009

[3] This is the language used by the IPCC in the AR5 to provide a qualitative interpretation of quantitative probabilities. It is based on the Guidance Note for Lead Authors of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report on Consistent Treatment of Uncertainties. IPCC Cross-Working Group Meeting on Consistent Treatment of Uncertainties. Jasper Ridge, CA, USA. 6-7 July 2010

[4] IPCC Summary for Policy Makers; Working Group III Table 6.3, p.12. The precise budget range is 630 to 1180 GtCO2

[5] With the surge in construction required to transition to a low-carbon infrastructure alongside ongoing industrialisation within poorer nations, reversing the 6.9% p.a. growth in emissions from cement will be extremely challenging. The assumptions used in this letter rely on deforestation and cement emissions, for the century, totalling 100 and 200GtCO2respectively. For cement this relates to either: 1) an immediate halving in current growth rates with a transition to zero emissions by 2075; or, 2) a continuation at current rates to 2030 with a transition to zero emissions by 2050.

[6] Once deforestation and cement emissions are included the remaining budget range for energy-only is ~190 to 740GtCO2 for 2015-2100. Emissions for 2014 will be around 37GtCO2, hence the 5 to 20 year estimate. It is important to note that global emissions are currently growing at ~3% p.a., and that there is no prospect of this changing significantly before 2020, by when emissions from energy will be ~42GtCO2.

[7] Calculated from consumption-based inventories where emissions from imports and exports are also included. Territorial and consumption-based data is available for the EU28 region and individual EU nations from the Global Carbon Atlas.

[8] For a detailed account of these conclusions in for Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 nations, see: Anderson K, Bows A. Beyond dangerous climate change: emission pathways for a new world. Phil Trans R Soc A: Math Phys Eng Sci 2011, 369:20–44.

* This letter builds on a previous submission (13.12.2013) to the EU Commission President with regards to the Green Paper A 2030 framework for climate and energy policies. Brussels, 27.3.2013 COM(2013) 169 final

 Euractiv reported it like this:

EU leaders adopt ‘flexible’ energy and climate targets for 2030

24/10/2014  (Euractiv)

EU leaders Thursday night (23 October) committed by 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40%, and increase energy efficiency and renewables by at least 27%.

French President François Hollande said the deal would send a clear message to big polluters such as China and the United States ahead of UN talks in Paris next year to agree global legally binding greenhouse gas emissions.

A special “flexibility clause” was added to the final text, making it possible for the European Council to return to the targets after the UN summit in December 2015.

But Hollande told reporters that the clause was not dependent on the Paris talks, as the Council can revisit the targets anytime.

Hollande, who will host the negotiations, said it was a “conclusive and definitive” agreement. It was essential a deal was reached before the Paris summit next year, he said.

Efficiency and renewables targets watered down

But the efficiency and renewables targets were watered down. The European Commission had called for an efficiency goal of 30%. That was reduced to 27% across the EU.  The EU level target is not legally binding at the national level or EU level and will be reviewed in 2020 “having in mind” a 30% EU-level target, according to the summit conclusions.

The renewables target of at least 27% is binding at EU-wide level but, after opposition from countries such as the United Kingdom, it will not be binding at national level. All three targets are compared to 1990 levels.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also noted that the climate agreement has made the EU capable of being an important player on the international stage. She said that the binding target of at least 27% renewables was particularly important to Germany and that those member states, that want to do more, are able to do so under this agreement.

“Germany will not have a hard time [living up to the targets]. We have already set tougher national targets,” said the German chancellor.

Merkel stressed that while the 40% emissions reduction target is going to be broken down to individual member states based on their GDP per capita, those countries that will have lower targets would have to do more in other areas.

Free allowances of carbon emissions to poorer countries will continue after 2020 to offset competition from countries not subject to EU climate laws.

The deal was condemned by groups such as Greenpeace and Oxfam as being too weak. “It is shocking that business leaders called for more ambitious targets than those agreed by EU leaders,” Oxfam said.

Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said the deal would not cost her country. Poland was the country that mostly opposed ambitious climate goals, fearing for its coal power plants.

“I said that we will not return from this summit with new [financial] burdens, and indeed there are no new burdens,” Kopacz told Polish reporters.

……. and it continues  ……



 The Guardian reported it like this:

EU leaders agree to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030

Climate commissioner hails ‘strong signal’ ahead of global Paris summit but key aspects of deal left vague or voluntary

By  in Brussels (Guardian)

24 October 2014

European leaders have struck a broad climate change pact obliging the EU as a whole to cut greenhouse gases by at least 40% by 2030.

But key aspects of the deal that will form a bargaining position for global climate talks in Paris next year were left vague or voluntary, raising questions as to how the aims would be realised.

As well as the greenhouse gas, two 27% targets were agreed – for renewable energy market share and increase in energy efficiency improvement. The former would be binding only on the EU as a whole. The latter would be optional, although it could be raised to 30% by a review in 2020.

“It was not easy, not at all, but we managed to reach a fair decision that sets the EU on an ambitious but cost-effective climate path,” Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council told a press conference in Brussels.

“This package is very good news for our fight against climate change,” the European Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, added. “No player in the world is as ambitious as the EU.”

With an eye on the haggling expected ahead of a global climate summit in Paris next year, the EU’s climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, said the agreement was an important step for the whole world. She said: “We have sent a strong signal to other big economies and all other countries: we have done our homework, now we urge you to follow Europe’s example.” 

But a clause was inserted into the text that could trigger a review of the EU’s new targets if other countries do not come forward with comparable commitments in Paris.

The Brussels summit was dominated by arguments over energy savings and climate policy, with countries from Poland to Portugal pleading special circumstances and threatening to veto any breakthrough unless their demands were met.

David Cameron was keen to minimise any perceived loss of UK sovereignty over energy policy, for fear of further exposure to attacks from the Eurosceptic wing of his Conservative party and Ukip. The prime minister won a battle to keep policies aimed at boosting renewables and saving electricity voluntary for member states.

“It’s important that you’ve got flexibility over your energy mix,” said a Downing Street spokeswoman. Cameron had hoped to cut the energy efficiency figure to 25%, but was prepared to accept 27% as long as it was not binding on Britain.

Portugal attained a non-binding objective that 15% of the bloc’s energy be transportable via cross-border connections by 2030, with an invitation to the European Commission to make concrete proposals for project financing from the EU budget.

Danish concerns were addressed with the introduction of a “cap and trade approach” to sectors previously considered outside the bloc’s carbon market such as agriculture, buildings and transport – which alone represents 31% of the bloc’s emissions.

Poland, heavily dependent on coal-fired energy production, threatened to block the deal unless the costs to its economy and industry were discounted by €15bn – €20bn (£12bn-£16bn) between 2020 and 2030, under a complicated system of concessions from the EU’s carbon trading system.

Concessions granted to Poland will allow it to continue reaping hundreds of millions of euros in free allowances to modernise coal-fired power plants. Of eight EU nations eligible for the free allocations, Poland claimed 60% of the total up until 2019.

A poll by TNS and YouGov for the online activist group Avaaz late last week found that 56% of Poles thought that EU financial support for energy should back clean energy rather than fossil fuels.

“It’s scandalous,” said Julia Michalak, a spokeswoman for Climate Action Network Europe. “A continuation of free emission permits for Poland’s coal-reliant energy system would be a grave mistake. Leaders who came to Brussels to agree new historic climate goals, are actually discussing whether to hand out money to Europe’s dirtiest power plants.”

Intense bilateral discussions between Cameron, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and other EU leaders over the last week tried to find ways of placating the Poles, who kept open their option of vetoing the summit outcome until the end.

The anticipated 40% greenhouse gas cut by 2030 would be measured against benchmark 1990 levels. That figure is to be binding on the EU and the minimum level achieved, with Germany and Britain happy to agree a higher figure.

Tony Robson, the CEO of Knauf Insulation – a leading insulation firm that had threatened to divest from Europe unless firm energy saving targets were announced – said that the 27% figure for energy efficiency improvement was “no better than business as usual” in an open letter to EU leaders.

A 27% target “sends a strong signal to the energy efficiency industry to ‘leave Europe and make your investments elsewhere’”, he wrote.


 By contrast with the inadequate deal actually achieved, it is being promoted by government as a great success. Which it is not.


Ed Davey MP writes … Signed, sealed and delivered, an ambitious climate change deal for Europe

By Edward Davey MP (Liberal Democrat Voice)
24th October 2014
We’ve done it! For Liberal Democrats in government, this EU climate deal is our most significant green win so far. While Liberal Democrats are passionate about tackling climate change, the likes of Owen Paterson and UKIP seem to delight in talking down the threat that it poses, but that should make us even more determined to tell people why this deal is so crucial.

What have we achieved? An ambitious Europe-wide climate change deal that will see greenhouse gases cut by at least 40% by 2030. Other countries wanted a lower target, but I argued that the science demanded higher. And I was determined that if in next year’s UN climate talks other countries like the US and China show similar ambition, Europe should be ready to increase its efforts still further – so the words “at least” in the deal are more important than normal.

In the two years I spent working on this, I was also determined the deal was as flexible as possible so we could go green as cost effectively as possible – able to benefit from new technologies as they evolve. We have built the world’s first ever low carbon,electricity market here in the UK to be technology neutral, and now Europe has copied us.

Effectively what we’ve done is Europeanise the UK’s Climate Change Act – the rest of Europe is levelling up to what the UK has already committed to do.

There’s also an added bonus. This deal bolsters Europe’s energy security by moving away from imports and towards a mix of home-grown energy. Mr Putin won’t enjoy reading that this deal will see the EU’s net energy imports reduce by 14%, and EU gas imports by 12% in 2030.

How have we achieved this? Let’s just say that not everyone in government thought we could get agreement on this. Some thought it was too ambitious. But we pushed ahead with it, fought several battles and won cross UK Government agreement.

The key to getting this deal done has been working with like-minded European partners. It’s been a long process, but working with those partners via the Green Growth Group that I set up has meant that we’ve won the argument and the deal has been done.

Make no mistake, this deal is the most significant environment agreement any UK Government has ever been involved with – and the Liberal Democrats led it in the UK and the EU. We can now say, this is the greenest government ever, thanks to the Liberal Democrats.

What comes next? Well, my ambition for cutting climate change doesn’t stop here. We now need to sell this package to the rest of the world. Next year in Paris I want to see an ambitious global deal signed. There is a lot of work to be done over the coming months to ensure we continue this momentum and pave the way for that deal. Rest assured I’ll be leading the charge.

* Edward Davey is Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, and MP for Kingston and Surbiton