The EU is way off target when it comes to meeting its declared aim of cutting carbon emissions up to 95% by 2050, despite having almost all of the necessary policy tools in place. Among the biggest gaps are emissions limits for freight transport, making existing buildings more efficient, investment in electricity grids, climate-conscious agricultural policies, and resource efficiency throughout the industrial production chain.
The latest “Climate Policy Tracker” for the European Union (www.climatepolicytracker.org), a study of climate measures published by WWF and Ecofys, found that EU legislation itself is a main reason member states are moving so slowly. The proposal for a new Energy Efficiency Directive is a good case in point. It outlines the scale of the problem well enough, but makes the most significant proposal to tackle it voluntary.
Setting targets too low is another major problem with EU legislation. The 20% reduction target for greenhouse gases by 2020, for instance, is not going to be enough to avoid damaging climate change. Further, the oversupply of carbon credit in the European emissions trading system risks “locking-in” polluting technologies for decades to come. Worse yet, the 20% energy saving target will be missed by half at the current rate.
But the problem for Europe is more than the wording of Commission proposals. Member states aren’t helping the situation either. When they reject a binding energy savings target with flexibility on measures, they are essentially arguing against subsidiarity. But when they also challenge meaningful EU measures as an alternative approach to targets, they are flying in the face of common sense. To get back on track Europe must both close the gap between good intentions and real progress, and make more of an effort overall. Otherwise the EU will continue to be like the footballer who consistently steps up to the penalty spot, but then stops to put on a blindfold before taking the shot. It is hardly surprising that he keeps missing the goal.