Open Europe Blog

Grand room, grand ideas….

Today, over a two hour working lunch in Dublin Castle’s grand State Dining Room, EU Environment Ministers will be discussing the EU’s contribution to reducing global CO2 emissions post-2020. The Commission’s Green Paper on the menu is austere stuff – it calls for reductions in EU emissions of up to 80 – 95% by 2050.

This raises many obvious questions. Leaving aside arguments over climate change, the impact on living standards and whether unilateral decarbonisation is sensible in a global economy, is this plan remotely credible? And if it is, where does the EU believe the cuts will come from? 

Commission’s plans to reduce CO2 by 80 – 95% (Mt CO2 eqv)

Firstly, as you can see on the right, as these cuts are calculated over 1990-levels, we’re already some way down the road (due to a recession and continued de-industrialisation). But the majority of the heavy lifting is yet to come.

You can also see from this that emissions from some states (Spain for instance) are allowed to go up before 2020. This is due to “burden sharing” allowed under EU rules. If the assembled ministers decide to do that again for 2030 it will mean higher cuts for the UK.

So, again, where will the cuts come from? Well, mostly  from industry and power generation, it seems. The most startling projection is that power generation is planned to reduce to 0%. Right…

EU Green paper: Power generation – 0% CO2?

This is a massive and expensive undertaking as you can see from looking at the UK’s current electricity generation mix (below). Currently, at only 7% renewables, a large share will either have to be modified to use Carbon Capture and Storage technology or replaced by new nuclear or renewables, such as wind. Beyond that, the UK’s emissions from industry will also have to decrease by a very large percentage. Is that remotely credible while maintaining a manufacturing base? Strangely the only area to be exempted from the emissions cut is agriculture – always a special case in the EU. 

UK electricity gerneration (2010)

Author :