Report - The EU can more than halve emissions by 2030 by acting in just three sectors

Press release

The European Union could reduce its emissions by more than 50% by 2030 compared to 1990 by scaling up climate action in just three sectors: electricity supply, residential buildings and passenger road transport, according to a new analysis released today by the Climate Action Tracker.

These three sectors account for around 60% of the EU28’s emissions. The report, “Scaling Up Climate Action: European Union” sets out a pathway for the EU to decarbonise all three sectors by mid-century, which would make its emissions trajectory Paris Agreement-compatible, and create hundreds of thousands of additional jobs, improve health, and reduce expensive energy imports.

The report is the second in the CAT’s new series of analyses that identify the most promising sectoral pathways for countries to achieve Paris Agreement 1.5˚C compatibility (1). It clearly shows that the most ambitious emissions reduction pathways presented in the recently published draft of the EU’s long-term climate strategy could not only be achieved, but would also come with significant co-benefits.

“Our analysis shows the EU can—and needs to—ratchet up its 2030 target to make it consistent with the Paris Agreement,” said Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics.

“Decarbonising electricity is the key to decarbonising the economy. The EU’s first step must be to phase out coal by 2030, and many EU member states are well on the way to achieving this.”

By the middle of this year, ten of the 28 EU member states—accounting for 26% of EU coal capacity—had already set 2030 coal phase-out goals. In addition, Germany and Spain, accounting for over 39% of EU coal capacity, are both considering phase out decisions.

“Why should the EU increase its action? The IPCC has clearly shown that keeping warming to 1.5˚C will reduce negative climate impacts like the extreme heatwaves, drought and flooding that are already being felt in the region. If the EU weans itself off fossil fuels, it will also reduce air pollution and premature deaths,” said Hare.

New EU policies—including the binding target of 32% for the share of renewable energy in overall total energy demand—would lead to a 48% share of renewable energy in electricity generation by 2030: a good step in the right direction, but still not consistent with the Paris Agreement.

“The whole of the EU needs to - and can - move faster than best players in the region: Denmark has so far been the frontrunner for scaling up renewable energy and renovating buildings, Norway for electric mobility, and Austria and Czechia for public transport,” said Prof Niklas Höhne, of NewClimate Institute.

The report concludes that the Paris Agreement 1.5oC compatible scenario would create up to 350,000 additional direct jobs between 2020 and 2030 in the electricity sector alone, particularly in wind and solar energy.

To decarbonise its passenger road transport sector, the EU needs to increase the share of electric vehicles (or other emissions-free vehicles) in new car sales from today’s 2% to 100% in 2035, apply stringent CO2 emissions intensity standards for new vehicles, and increase public transport to the same kinds of levels as seen in Czechia and Austria.

This means that no more internal combustion vehicles should be sold after 2035. Some member states such as Netherlands, UK, France, have adopted phase out targets around this time—others need to follow.

“Road transport is responsible for 30% of the EU’s NOx emissions. Decarbonising the transport sector would not only help the EU become Paris Agreement-compatible, it would also significantly decrease the EU’s reliance on energy imports, and help reduce air and noise pollution,” said Yvonne Deng, of Ecofys, a Navigant company.

With more than a third of the EU’s emissions coming from the residential buildings sector, the EU must increase both its building renovation rates and efficiency. With full electrification and phasing out fossil fuels for heating and cooling, this could result in an almost complete decarbonisation of the sector. In this sector, too, the whole of the EU needs to go further than the “best in class”—Denmark.

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