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The international scientific consensus is that current global GHG reduction goals are insufficient. More ambitious action on climate is needed to reach net zero. Green City Times recommends that the international community focuses effort on ambitious climate change mitigation goals with several high priority global sustainability pathways (PLEASE SEE)>>> greencitytimes.com/stabilize-greenhouse-gas-emissions
GHG reduction targets and climate change mitigation goals made at the UNFCCC Paris Climate Accord must be increased by (at least) a factor of 3 to 5. This scientific consensus on necessary climate targets is reflected in the UN Emissions Gap Report. With increased ambition in climate pledges, countries worldwide should be aiming to reach their latest carbon neutrality (net zero emissions) targets.
The UN Emissions Gap Report highlights strategies for achieving global net neutrality goals that must be prioritized in order to reach net zero by 2050. To achieve carbon neutrality, progress in implementing renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies on a global scale must be increased by between three and five times (or greater) all current levels. [See below for narratives, and links to articles, about the United Nations Emissions Gap Report].
International Net Zero GHG Emissions Targets
As climate science has evolved, some nations' greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) reduction targets have become more ambitious. This is reflected in climate targets such as the EU Climate Law, which aims to cut carbon emissions by 55% (of 1990 levels) by 2030; on Europe's way to net zero by 2050.
Many developed nations, including the EU group of countries, the US, the UK, a few other nations & Japan, have set ambitious targets to reach net zero GHG emissions (carbon neutrality) by mid-century. Germany, as well as a few other European nations, have even more ambitious net zero targets (for example, Germany and Sweden are aiming for net carbon neutrality by 2045).
National net zero pledges represent ambitious goals to keep global warming well below 2°C (that’s below 2°C temperature rise above pre-industrial global temperature averages), and ideally to no more than 1.5°C, this century. Adoption of these climate ambitions is evidence of the more ambitious world nations’ efforts to make good on the latest IPCC climate targets (see map below).
Here is a map with G-20 countries' various degrees of progress to net zero:
Will the EU meet its clean energy goals?
The EU has developed specific, mandated and aspirational, climate change mitigation goals since 2008. In 2008, the EU had set a target of 20% GHG emissions reduction by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels) - in the EU 20-20-20 by 2020 Climate & Energy Package. Reflecting the urgency of the global climate crisis, European climate goals evolved significantly in the last decade.
Even prior to the Paris Climate Accord, the EU had set a new ambitious goal - 40% GHG reduction by 2030 (vs. 1990 levels). The EU subsequently revised this goal (yet again) to an even greater target (55% GHG reduction by 2030), in the European Green Deal.
The most recent, ambitious, legally binding EU climate pledge is known as Fit for 55. "As part of the European Green Deal, with the European Climate Law, the EU has set itself a binding target of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. This requires current greenhouse gas emission levels to drop substantially in the next decades. As an intermediate step towards climate neutrality, the EU has raised its 2030 climate ambition, committing to cutting emissions by at least 55% by 2030." - thus, Fit for 55.
Fit for 55 is a comprehensive plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The 2030 GHG reduction goal puts the EU on the net zero by 2050 path. The European Green Deal and the European Climate Law are also aligned with the European 2050 goal, and are described below.
The EU passed the European Green Deal in December 2019, in Brussels. The European Green Deal is a set of very ambitious climate goals and other policy guidelines for the EU to achieve carbon neutrality (detailed below). The EU Climate Law was passed in June 2021, in Brussels - and sets both the 55% GHG reduction by 2030 target, and the net zero by 2050 target, into law.
Most world countries' GHG reduction targets and current climate policies are characterized as “insufficient” by Climate Action Tracker (CAT). Current international climate policies would only keep global warming to a 3-3.4°C rise this century (see CAT chart at bottom). A projected global temperature rise in excess of 3°C is based on insufficient ambition in national climate policies up to 2021, and would result in catastrophic climate change. Hopefully, this global trend will change, and be aligned with "well below 2°C" (at least in Europe, the projected climate policy future pathway has already changed for the better).
Broadly speaking, countries in Northern Europe are doing the best globally as far as reaching ambitious GHG reduction goals, and in taking ambitious climate change mitigation action to meet those goals. For example, cities in Sweden, Denmark, and Germany (among other European nations), are employing very ambitious climate change mitigation initiatives.
Cities like Vaxjo, Sweden, are on a path to becoming carbon-neutral by 2025. The same is true for Copenhagen, Denmark (net zero trget:2025), and cities in Germany like Freiburg also have ambitious climate strategies.
Countries in Western Europe are doing only slightly less well than Northern Europe as far as setting ambitious GHG reduction targets and taking progressive climate action. Northern and Western European countries are generally doing a little better than countries in Southern and Eastern Europe. However, all of Europe, as a whole, is leading the world in climate action, but it is still not enough.
The European Green Deal includes the following climate & energy policies:
"The agenda targets every sector of the economy — agriculture, transportation, [buildings], industry, ecology — and allocates funding to the people who may lose their jobs or see their communities reshaped by the move toward cleaner energy.
The [Green Deal] calls for establishing the EU’s first-ever climate law [passed June 2021], one that would anchor the 2050 climate neutrality target and make the progress toward it irreversible in law, should another commission change its mind. And in addition to creating national climate and energy plans for each EU member state, the Green Deal calls for strategies to decarbonize sectors like industry and agriculture, as well as strategies to protect biodiversity.
To get other countries to move on climate change, and to prevent European businesses from fleeing to other countries with less severe restrictions on greenhouse gases, the European Green Deal taxes emissions associated with imports from countries with weaker climate goals. The border adjustment carbon tax could kick in as soon as 2021."
European Green Deal
Climate action is at the heart of the European Green Deal – an ambitious package of measures ranging from ambitiously cutting greenhouse gas emissions, to investing in cutting-edge research and innovation, to preserving Europe’s natural environment.
First climate action initiatives under the Green Deal include:
- European Climate Law to enshrine the 2050 climate-neutrality objective into EU law
- European Climate Pact to engage citizens and all parts of society in climate action
Global Climate Reality |
"The world is further off course than ever from meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement and averting climate catastrophe as the divide between countries’ pledges and actions continues to grow.
This grim assessment comes from the United Nations Emissions Gap Report. “Gap” refers to the difference between what countries have committed to do to limit climate change and what they actually need to do to meet greenhouse gas targets.
The findings aren’t surprising, given that global greenhouse gas emissions have reached all-time highs in recent years. But they are still alarming. Since the first gap report was published in 2010, carbon dioxide emissions have risen..."
EU’s evolution of climate targets |
Many EU climate policy strategies formed prior to 2019 are made more ambitious in the European Green Deal. EU member countries have collectively adopted ambitious sets of climate mitigation and GHG reduction targets and policies over the last couple of decades, culminating in the European Green Deal (2019) and the EU Climate Law (2021).
The EU ETS (launched in 2005), the European Commission's Energy Efficiency Plan, and the Clean Energy for all Europeans Package, are ambitious EU climate policies passed prior to the Green Deal. The Package is a set of legislative mandates, aspirational GHG reduction targets, and renewable energy and energy efficiency goals; first adopted by the EU in 2008 (then simply called "the EU Climate Package"), recently updated in 2018. The EU Climate Package was again revised and put into the European Green Deal in 2019.
Below is a summary of sets of EU climate change mitigation policies - from the EU ETS, to the Energy Efficiency Plan, to the Package, and the 2018 update to the EU Climate Package. This summary also includes more ambitious mitigation targets in light of new scientific data on the evolving scientific understanding of global warming. Scientific understanding helps to clarify the exact measures that are currently needed to fight climate change.
The EU emissions trading system (EU ETS) is the EU's key tool for cutting greenhouse gas emissions from large-scale facilities in the power and industry sectors
Current EU measures for increasing energy efficiency are set out in the European Commission's comprehensive Energy Efficiency Plan -
- Energy performance of buildings
- Heating and cooling in buildings and industry
- Cogeneration of heat and power
- Energy label and eco-design [similar to, or using EU versions of, Energy Star & LEED standards]
- EU Energy Efficiency Directive , [such as rolling out 200 million smart meters for electricity and 45 million for gas, and other directives that generally correspond to an effectively deployed smart grid] FROM - ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/strategies/2020
"The mandated set of EU climate change mitigation targets, in terms of GHG reduction, renewable energy, and energy efficiency goals, evolved into a more ambitious set of policies- namely, the Clean Energy for all Europeans Package. New 2018 package - and then many of these ambitious climate policy goals were put into the European Green Deal."
“Based on European Commission proposals [published, and since updated] in November 2016, the Clean Energy for all Europeans Package consists of eight legislative acts.
After political agreement by the Council and the European Parliament in 2018 (and early 2019), enabling all of the new rules to be in force by mid-2019, EU countries have [settled on goals as described below].
The changes will bring considerable benefits from a consumer perspective, from an environmental perspective, and from an economic perspective.
It also underlines EU leadership in tackling global warming and provides an important contribution to the EU’s long-term strategy of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
With a view to showing global leadership on renewables, the EU has set an ambitious, binding target of 32% for renewable energy sources in the EU’s energy mix by 2030." FROM - ec.europa.eu/energy-strategy-and-energy-union/clean-energy-all-europeans
The EU has set binding targets of at least 32.5% energy efficiency gains by 2030, relative to a ‘business as usual’ scenario; as per the European Commission's amending directive on energy efficiency that has been in place since December 2018. The main part of this, the EU's energy performance in buildings directive outlines specific measures for the building sector.
Other EU-wide climate change mitigation policies, mandates, and initiatives (in addition to GHG reduction, renewable energy, and energy efficiency targets), can be viewed in the various links here.
As far as non-EU member European countries, Norway and Iceland are positive examples of countries prioritizing and successfully implementing climate-focused initiatives, and both countries do fully participate in the EU ETS.
Reykjavik, Iceland runs mostly on hydroelectricity and geothermal energy, leading the world in renewable energy. Iceland has almost entirely zero carbon emissions electricity and heating, by virtue of its high saturation of renewable energy.
Oslo, Norway is a world leader in electric cars on the road. Oslo has a congestion charge (similar to London) which incentivizes the use of fuel-efficient, low and zero-emission vehicles. Oslo is even considering a complete ban on fossil fuel-based vehicles.
Norway and Iceland both have tended to follow GHG reduction targets set by the EU. However, Norway has an even more ambitious goal- 90% GHG reduction by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels), on the nation's path to net zero. Iceland has a very ambitious climate goal to achieve net zero "well before" 2050.
Climate goals of the United States
[Note: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the new United States President and Vice President. Democrats are in charge of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and the United States rejoined the international community focused on climate action.
First and foremost, this meant rejoining the Paris Climate Accord. The United States government is also poised to invest substantially in clean energy infrastructure, clean energy job development, environmental protections, and in many other significant sustainable climate, energy, environmental, and economic/ job growth US sectors.
A federal 100% Clean Electricity Standard (CES) is evolving in the US, and will become the law of the land by 2025 (if not sooner). Many states already have their own CES, or a state-wide renewable portfolio standard (RPS), mandating that a certain amount of the state's energy comes from renewable sources.
Every state will undoubtedly have a different approach to a federal CES, from trying to reject the CES, to wholeheartedly embracing it. States will also want different target dates, representing different levels of ambition, for their state's CES.
Even as US federal climate policy has been slow to evolve, some individual states are trying to live up to the climate goals and policies set forth in Paris. A few states even represent progressive climate goals on par with those of the most ambitious nations in Northern Europe.
For example, California has a statewide goal of 100% clean electricity by 2045, and has mandated all new buildings statewide be zero net energy.
"California has set the following ambitions goals for the development of net zero buildings:
- All new residential construction will be zero net energy (ZNE) by 2020
- All new commercial construction will be ZNE by 2030
- 50% of commercial buildings will be retrofit to ZNE by 2030
- 50% of new major renovations of state buildings will be ZNE by 2025" FROM - energiesprong.org/california
These quotes from The Economist summarize the climate change mitigation efforts of more progressive states in the U.S. as far as climate policies-
"A long line of states, including Colorado, Washington, New Mexico, have already enacted clean-energy laws this year. More and more states are following California, which began instituting stringent environmental rules decades ago.
Rigorous efficiency standards for appliances, businesses and vehicles have brought the Golden State’s emissions down. From 2000 to , California’s emissions fell by [over 9%] even as its economy and population grew.” - quote from - economist.com/united-states/can-american-states-slow-global-warming-on-their-own[Those states listed above as well as Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Maine have enacted clean energy laws. In fact, "thirty states, Washington, D.C., and two territories have active renewable or clean energy requirements, while an additional three states and one territory have set voluntary renewable energy goals." - quote from - ncsl.org/research/energy/renewable-portfolio-standards Below is a list of states with CES or RPS:
State Amendments to RPS/CES Legislation Since 2018
|State||New RPS/CES Target||By Years|
California, and several states in New England, have already enacted cap-and-trade programs for carbon pricing. This east coast group of states with cap-and-trade is known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) coalition of states. The 11 states in RGGI will likely be joined by others in the near future: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey (withdrew in 2012, rejoined in 2020), New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.
RGGI only puts a carbon price on electricity, whereas California's cap-and-trade program has a price on multiple economic sectors. Both have a relatively low carbon price. These cap and trade systems are also known as emissions trading systems (ETS).
for more information on both emissions trading systems and carbon taxes, please see:
Prior to California in 2006, the EU had developed carbon pricing in 2005, and even earlier on a developmental test basis in the UK and Denmark– the EU ETS. Most other non-EU European countries now also have a carbon tax or ETS of their own, as seen in this map of the current state of carbon pricing programs around the globe-
The reality of current climate policies and progress UN member countries made in Paris vs. what is actually needed
This article from The Guardian sums up the reality of what the UN states as necessary climate change mitigation policies and technologies worldwide- "Countries must make an unprecedented effort to cut their levels of greenhouse gases in the next decade to avoid climate chaos, the UN has warned...Global emissions must fall by 7.6% every year from now until 2030 to stay within the 1.5°C ceiling on temperature rises that scientists say is necessary to avoid disastrous consequences." - quote from - theguardian.com/united-nations-global-effort-cut-emissions-stop-climate-chaos-2030
The Paris Climate Accord sets the advised limit on global warming to 2°C in order for the world to avoid severe impacts from catastrophic climate change. The UNFCCC has set a more ambitious goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C this century, however, even the EU is off that mark considerably.
The EU, California, and non-EU European countries, are significantly ahead of much of the rest of the world, but it still isn't enough to sufficiently correct the current rate of global warming (as illustrated in the more "optimistic policies" scenario in the CAT graph below).
Current pledges for GHG reduction and progress in climate change mitigation made by countries in the Paris Climate Accord would result in a global temperature rise of at least 3°C, which is definitively better than the “business as usual” scenario of an over 4°C global temperature rise, but does not hit targets set in Paris.
This graph from Climate Action Tracker (CAT) (below) shows the baseline (business as usual - BAU) scenario for global temperature rise this century. The BAU scenario shows the result if countries continue energy policies without adopting ambitious climate change mitigation measures, and minimal GHG reduction is accomplished due to minimal climate change mitigation policies and efforts.
The CAT graph below also shows the range of more optimistic scenarios; from current climate mitigation policies (globally, among the world's countries), the scenario the would result from Paris Climate Accord pledges (realistically 2°C - 2.9°C), and scenarios resulting from more ambitious global climate policies, climate change mitigation efforts, and clean energy technologies that would hold warming to 1.5°C.
The following articles summarize the problem, the gap between GHG reduction pledges and efforts; and present solutions backed by scientific evidence-
- “12 years to save the planet” began drawing attention in 2018, when the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report describing what it would take to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5°C, a goal of the Paris climate agreement. The report explained that countries would have to cut their anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, such as from power plants and vehicles, to net zero by around 2050. To reach that goal, it said, CO2 emissions would have to start dropping "well before 2030" and be on a path to fall by about 45% by around 2030 (12 years away at that time).
- An assessment backed by the world’s major climate science bodies has found commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions must be at least tripled and increased by up to fivefold if the world is to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
- The current pledges made by countries under the Paris agreement would cause temperature rises of about 3.2°C this century, according to scientific estimates.
- Global emissions must fall by 7.6% every year from now until 2030 to stay within the 1.5°C ceiling on temperature rises that scientists say is necessary to avoid disastrous consequences
- Technologies such as renewable energy, [green building and other energy efficiency technologies], and electric vehicles, are now available [as well as GCT’s 10+ point plan, the EU’s energy efficiency policies in the EU Climate Package], and increasingly cheap, which could enable deep cuts in carbon without jeopardizing economic growth” [please also see: greencitytimes.com/renewable-energy-jobs-are-up-and-re-cost-is-down/]
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