EU set to miss vital emissions targets

New Transport and Environment (T&E) analysis finds that the emissions reduction trajectory proposed by the European Commission sets a far too generous emissions budget for 2021-2030. Weaknesses in the regulation mean that, by 2030, emissions in the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) sectors would not be cut by 40 per cent, as envisaged by Fit for 55, but by a mere third.

T&E's analysis finds two types of flexibilities within the ESR which will prevent the EU from reaching its emissions reduction target. First, the processes of banking, borrowing and trading give room to member states to delay real emission cuts and rely on reductions due to the economic slowdown caused by COVID. Under the current rules, member states can ‘bank’ their 2021 surpluses with no limit for future years. With this so-called ‘COVID dividend’, countries will be able to bank a surplus the size of the entire Czech Republic’s 2019 emissions, in 2021 alone.

The second, and more worrying type of flexibility, consists of credits that are additional to countries’ allocated emissions budgets. They either come from other sectors outside of the ESR or as additional allocations provided under the ESR. These loopholes undermine the very goal of the regulation which drives emissions reduction in ESR sectors. By injecting additional permits into the ESR emissions budget, it decreases the incentive for member states to design sufficient measures to ensure that the transport, buildings, agriculture and waste sectors are on a path to net-zero.

The study also finds that in the past, countries failed to meet their 2013-2020 emissions budget, because of poor enforcement mechanisms. This goes against the overwhelming support by citizens for more ambitious national climate targets. A coalition of NGOs, including CAN Europe, WWF and the EEB, have come together to propose a series of revisions to the Effort Sharing Regulation, in a bid to strengthen rules on national climate action and planning.

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