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Role of CLIMA policy in shaping Europe’s future

Submitted by on 14 Jul 2017 – 09:05

The EU played an instrumental role in shaping the Paris Agreement – the first-ever universal, legally binding climate change deal. Staying at the forefront of the global clean energy transition is an opportunity to strengthen the European economy and help build a more sustainable future for all. Jos Delbeke, Director General, European Commission’s DG CLIMA provides an update on EU strategy towards a low-carbon future

In Paris in December 2015, almost all countries of the world – including the EU and all its member countries – agreed on a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C.

Now countries around the world are working on turning their Paris pledges into concrete policies and action on the ground. With its strong track record on climate action, Europe is well placed to contribute to this global transition and benefit from the opportunities it offers.

From targets to policies

The EU has already started implementing its commitment to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

Even before the Paris conference, the European Commission presented a proposal to strengthen the EU emissions trading system (EU ETS) – the world’s largest carbon market and our principal tool for cutting greenhouse gas emissions – to ensure it delivers the reductions required as well as to promote investments in line with our longer term climate goals.

Last year, this was followed by a proposal for setting binding emission reduction targets for each EU country for the sectors not covered by the emissions trading system, such as buildings, agriculture, transport and waste.

Moreover, our climate targets are integrated into a wider set of policies that aim to make energy more secure, affordable and sustainable. Further policy proposals aimed for example at boosting low-emission mobility are in the pipeline for this year.

Alongside action to cut emissions, and just as important, we are working to make Europe more resilient to the impacts of climate change. The EU adaptation strategy promotes action in key vulnerable sectors and in all relevant policies, and most EU countries have also developed national strategies.

Innovation is key

The EU experience shows that setting ambitious targets pays off – and that climate action goes hand in hand with economic growth. From 1990 to 2015, EU greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 22%, while our combined GDP grew by 50%. The number of green jobs in the EU has also increased steadily even through the recession years.

Going forward, we need to keep up and step up our efforts. It is clear that making the low-carbon shift a reality in all sectors of the economy will be a challenge. At the same time, it is also an opportunity to attract private investments to support growth and jobs and renew our energy infrastructure.

For example, the Commission’s proposal for the revision of the EU ETS includes the creation of an Innovation Fund designed to support large-scale demonstration of activities in carbon capture and storage, innovative renewable energy and low-carbon innovation in energy-intensive industries.

The Innovation Fund builds on the experience of the current NER 300 funding programme, which has awarded €2.1 billion to 39 innovative demonstration projects. These include for example a wind farm producing clean energy in Arctic conditions in northern Sweden and a plant turning agricultural waste into biogas in Germany.

Another example of innovative funding instruments is the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), which is at the heart of the Investment Plan for Europe. By providing a guarantee to projects, the fund helps de-risk climate related investments.

The fund was established for an initial period of three years, but given its success, the Commission has proposed to double its duration and size. This would allow it to provide a total of at least half a trillion euro of investments in Europe by 2020, with sustainability as a key focus.

Global solutions

These programmes and instruments, along with many others, are there to help give European researchers, innovators and businesses the support they need to develop the solutions the world urgently needs to tackle its climate and energy challenges.

The EU is well placed to be a leading provider of these solutions – both in terms of taking advantage of the new market opportunities and in terms of sharing our experience and expertise to support other countries in their efforts to reduce emissions and build resilience to the impacts of climate change.

The global transition has been set in motion. Now is the time to make sure we keep the wheels turning for a more climate-friendly future.