Less greenhouse gases

Everyday activities like switching on a light, boiling a kettle or driving a car produce greenhouse gas emissions which lead to global warming. By creating a barrier that traps the sun’s rays, emissions such as carbon dioxide cause the earth’s surface to heat up and ultimately affect the planet’s climate.

Major reductions in these emissions are needed to prevent global warming from reaching dangerous levels. The EU is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% from 1990 levels by 2020, and by 30% if a satisfactory international agreement is reached.

Rising to challenges and seizing opportunities

House with tree growing out of the chimney

The EU’s main weapon in tackling climate change is the 2005 emission trading scheme. Countries can trade their emission allowances within the overall, European emission limit. The scheme (the first of its kind) allows countries to scale down their greenhouse gas emissions in a cost-effective way.

The scheme applies to all the EU countries, plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. It currently covers 10 500 installations in the energy and industrial sectors, collectively responsible for 40% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The scope for making a difference is therefore huge.

The EU has extended the scheme to include more greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide (fertilisers) and perfluorocarbons (aluminium production), as well as all major industrial emitters such as power plants.

While the scheme itself is limited to certain sectors, the EU’s policy also covers other important greenhouse gas-producing sectors like agriculture, buildings, waste and transport. Participating countries will each have a national target, so that the burden is shared.

While these measures will go a long way towards ensuring that the earth’s surface temperature does not rise more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, more action will be needed if the EU is to cut greenhouse gases by 50% by 2050. This is where carbon capture and underground storage come in.

The EU is promoting the process of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the gases discarded by industry and transporting and injecting it into geological formations. This would mitigate the effects of coal and gas production and also other CO2-intensive industries such as cement, iron, steel and petrochemicals.More info at;


More renewable energy

Solar panels on roof of house
The numerous benefits of renewable energy sources are widely accepted – they help curb climate change, provide a secure supply of energy and serve our long-term economic interests.

This is why the EU will increase the share of renewables in its overall energy mix to 20%, including biofuels and other renewable energy in the transport sector by 2020.

Rising to challenges and seizing opportunities

Wind turbines in the sunset

By switching to renewables, we could cut consumption of fossil fuels by 200m-300m tonnes a year and reduce CO2 emissions by 600m-900m tonnes a year.

By producing its own renewable energy, the EU will also be less dependent on external supplies and therefore less exposed to fluctuating oil prices.

Hi-tech industries also stand to gain from new economic opportunities, as low or zero-emission technologies are developed to harness the potential of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, hydro power and biomass.

To reach its 20% target, EU leaders have agreed to set binding national targets for all member countries. These national targets will ensure that everyone does their fair share, taking account of each country’s starting position, improvements already made and differing levels of prosperity.

Each country is required to increase production and use of renewable energy in electricity generation, heating, air conditioning and transport. A fixed 10% of transport fuel needs should be covered by biofuels and other fuels from renewable energy sources in each country.

While biofuels can be used to cut emissions, the EU is keen to ensure that they are sustainably produced, do not undermine food production or lead to deforestation or biodiversity loss.More info at:


More energy efficient

Energy saving light bulb in a plant pot
Improving energy efficiency is one of the simplest ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions and increase sustainability and security of supply. It supports economic development, creates jobs, and reduces energy costs for households and businesses.

By saving 20% of energy consumption by 2020, the EU hopes to cut emissions by almost 800m tonnes a year and save as much as €100bn.

Rising to challenges and seizing opportunities

Energy efficiency label on washing machine

To meet the target, the EU has been working to develop energy-efficient technology, products and services in areas with the greatest energy-saving potential.

Buildings come top of this list – accounting for 40% of EU energy requirements. Energy consumption could be cut by up to a third. The EU has taken steps to ensure buildings are better designed and use more efficient lighting, heating, cooling and hot-water systems.

Next in line is road transport (26% of EU energy requirements). Car emissions are to be capped at 120g of CO2/km by 2012 and energy-efficient vehicles promoted through clearer labelling. Alternatives to car travel such as public transport, non-motorised transport and teleworking will also be promoted.

The other sector under scrutiny is manufacturing (25% of EU energy requirements).The energy performance of products has been studied and eco-design standards will be applied to certain products such as boilers, televisions and lighting products to improve their performance. Labelling is another way to encourage “green shopping”. The eco-label tells consumers which product or service is kinder to the environment and saves the most energy.More info at: