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Challenges to EU climate change policy

Oilfield Technology,

The European Union is currently in the process of developing its climate change targets for the post-2020 period.

Target: A 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 as compared to 1990.

The EU is hoping to see an increase in renewable energy consumption of 27% by 2030. The European Commission (EC) has also developed a market stability fund that would stabilize the carbon price under its emissions trading scheme.

EC estimates that reaching these climate targets will require investments of approximately 38 billion euros annually over the period 2001 – 2030. The total cost of the energy system in 2939 is projected to increase by 0.15% if targets are met cost effectively, or at an annual average cost of 2 billion euros/y.


The Brookings Institute has highlighted a range of challenges to EU adoption and implementation of the above outlined climate change goals:

Conflict between member countries.

Eastern European member states such as Poland and the Czech Republic that rely heavily on coal are concerned about the economic costs of these post-2020 targets. Meanwhile, EU member states from the so-called ‘Green Growth Group’ – the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg and Slovenia – are pushing to adopt EC proposals as soon as possible to create a stable investment climate that will help move the continent toward a low carbon economy.

Current functioning of Europe’s emissions trading scheme.

Low EU carbon price has caused abundantly available coal resources to become the preferred feedstock for electricity generation, which on a marginal cost basis is now less expensive than natural gas, a situation that analysts believe will continue for a number of years. This is adding to significant growth in greenhouse gas emissions in northeastern Europe.

The Ukraine crisis

According to Brookings, the Ukraine crisis is affecting the energy debate in Europe. Some countries are using the crisis to highlight the need for stability of supply, arguing that this can be achieved through greater exploitation of domestic resources such as coal, or possibly shale gas. Others cite it as an argument to accelerate decision making regarding 2030 policy proposals and formulate even more ambitious clean energy targets for 2030 than the EC proposed.

The Brookings Institute highlights that in light of these challenges, Europe is facing a prolonged and increasingly complex debate on its post-2020 climate and energy targets. One of the risks is that it could lead to Europe adopting a less ambitious climate change framework. Brookings believes this would be a loss for all.

For more Brookings Institute insights into climate policy, see also ‘Energiewende: What the US can learn’.

Adapted from a press release by Emma McAleavey.

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