EU climate action

Preventing dangerous climate change is a key priority for the European Union. Europe is working hard to cut its greenhouse gas emissions substantially while encouraging other nations and regions to do likewise.

Key EU targets for 2020

20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions compared with 1990

20% of total energy consumption from renewable energy

20% increase in energy efficiency

Key EU targets for 2030

At least 40% cut in greenhouse gas emissions compared with 1990

At least 27% of total energy consumption from renewable energy

At least 27% increase in energy efficiency

Long-term goal

By 2050, the EU aims to cut its emissions substantially – by 80-95% compared to 1990 levels as part of the efforts required by developed countries as a group.

Turning Europe into a highly energy efficient and low-carbon economy will also boost the economy, create jobs and strengthen Europe’s competitiveness.

Action towards climate targets

The EU is pursuing its climate targets through a combination of financial support and regulation.

Financial support

  • At least 20% of the EU’s budget for 2014 to 2020 – as much as €180 billion – should be spent on protecting the climate. This is on top of funding from individual EU countries.
  • The EU finances low-carbon energy demonstration projects from the sale of emission certificates. This includes technologies to trap carbon dioxide from power stations and other industrial installations and store it in the ground, so-called carbon capture and storage (CCS).
  • Regulation

The EU’s emissions trading system is the key tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from industry at the lowest cost.

EU countries are required to support renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and biomass to reach the green energy targets.

EU countries have to reduce the energy use of their buildings and industries are required to improve the energy efficiency of a wide array of equipment and household appliances.

Car manufacturers have to reduce COemissions from new cars and vans.

Adapting to climate change

The European Commission has adopted an EU Adaptation Strategy and wants all its Member States to adopt national plans to cope with the inevitable impacts of climate change by 2017. A number of Member States have already developed adaptation strategies.

For example, this includes measures such as:

using less water

adapting building regulations

building flood defences

developing crops that cope better in drought conditions

Keep global warming below 2°C

Global warming has to be limited to below 2°C compared to the average temperature in pre-industrial times to prevent the most severe impacts of climate change and possibly catastrophic changes in the global environment.

This was agreed by almost all countries worldwide in 1992 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

To achieve this, the world must stop the growth in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and reduce them by 60% by 2050 compared with 2010.

The latest scientific evidence suggests that, if little or no action is taken to reduce global emissions, by the end of this century global warming is likely to exceed the 2°C target and could be as much as 5°C.

International action

The EU is part of the new global climate agreement agreed in 2015 and due to be implemented from 2020.

The EU has committed to a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol running from 2013 to 2020.

As the world’s leading donor of development aid, the EU also provides substantial funding to tackle climate change.