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State of the Low-Carbon Energy Union: Assessing the EU’s progress towards its 2030 and 2050 climate objectives

Studies N°08/2016. Iddri, 2016.

Contributing authors: Sascha Samadi, Manfred Fischedick, Katharina Knoop (Wuppertal Institute), Steve Pye (UCL), Patrick Criqui, Sandrine Mathy (Grenoble Applied Economics Lab), Pantelis Capros, Panagiotis Fragkos (E3MLab/ICCS), Maciej Bukowski, Aleksander ´Sniegocki (WiseEuropa), Maria Rosa Virdis, Maria Gaeta (ENEA), Karine Pollier and Cyril Cassisa (Enerdata)

Rather than examining aggregate emissions trends, this study delves deep into the dynamics affecting each sector of the EU energy system. It examines the structural changes taking place in power production, transport, buildings and industry, and benchmarks these with the changes required to reach the 2030 and 2050 targets. In so doing it aims to influence both the ambition and direction of future policy decisions, both at Member State and EU level.

KEY MESSAGES

  • A SECTORAL APPROACH TO DEEP DECARBONISATION IN THE EU
    In order to assess the adequacy of the EU and its Member States policies with the 2030 and 2050 decarbonisation objectives, this study goes beyond the aggregate GHG emissions or energy use figures and analyse the underlying drivers of emission changes, following a sectoral approach (power generation, buildings, industry, and transport). Historical trends of emission drivers are compared with the required long-term deep decarbonisation pathways, which provide sectoral ‘benchmarks’ or ‘corridors’ against which to analyse the rate and direction of historical change for each Member State and the EU in aggregate. This approach allows the identification of the necessary structural changes in the energy system and policy interventions to reach deep decarbonisation, and therefore the comparison with the current policy programs at European and Member State level.
     
  • PROGRESS NEEDS STRONG REINFORCEMENT AND SCALING UP
    The EU has made significant progress in the structural decarbonisation of its energy system. However, despite of this progress, the EU is currently “off-track” to achieve its objectives by 2030 and 2050. First, the rate of change is insufficient across a large number of the indicators assessed. Second, too much of the change in aggregate emissions has been driven by cyclical effects rather than structural decarbonisation, notably the impact of the financial crisis and subsequent slow recovery. Third, long-term decarbonisation options, for example to decarbonise industrial processes and materials, are not being adequately prepared. While some policies under the EU’s 2030 Climate and Energy Framework will have an impact, our study suggests that the ambition of EU and Member State policies is either a continuation of business as usual in terms of rates of progress, or is being dialled down in some cases.

    The EU and Member State policy should significantly revise their approach to decarbonisation by refocusing on the key drivers of emissions in each sector. The EU’s new Energy Union Governance Mechanism should be designed based on this principle and current proposals to implement the 2030 package should be adopted in the strongest possible form to put the EU back on track. The EU, in coordination with the Member States, should develop a suite of sectoral policies to complement the overarching emissions caps of the EU ETS and non-ETS sectors.