European Union

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The European Union has made climate change a top priority. The following is an outline of EU efforts to combat climate change.


Efforts From The EU

GOAL: To stay within this ceiling, we have to halt the rising trend in global greenhouse gas emissions before 2020, at least halve global emissions by the middle of this century and continue cutting them thereafter.

How To Get It Done:

The EU has participated in the following initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:

Implement & propose policies to the European Parliament;

Continually improving the energy efficiency of a wide array of equipment and household appliances;

Mandating increased use of renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, hydro and biomass, and of renewable transport fuels, such as biofuels;

Supporting the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to trap and store CO2 emitted by power stations and other large installations;

Launching the European Climate Change Programme (ECCP) in 2000, which has led to the adoption of a wide range of new policies and measures, including the Emissions Trading System, the EU's key tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from industry cost-effectively;

Developing a comprehensive EU adaptation strategy that strengthens Europe's resilience to climate change

Policy Milestones:

June 2000: Commission launches first European Climate Change Programme (ECCP I)

Feb. 2005: Kyoto Protocol enters into force

Jan. 2005: Start of the EU's greenhouse gas Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS)

Oct. 2005: Launch of second European Climate Change Programme (ECCP II)

March 2007: EU summit endorses proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020

Dec. 2007: UNFCCC conference in Bali (COP-13) launches negotiations on post-Kyoto framework

Dec.2008: EU agrees climate and energy package, endorsing targets for a 2020 greenhouse gas reduction by 2020

Dec. 2009: UNFCCC conference in Copenhagen (COP-15) produces Copenhagen Accord

29 Nov.- 10 Dec. 2010: UNFCCC conference in Cancún (COP-16)

28 Nov.-9 Dec. 2011: UN climate conference in South Africa (COP17). Possible date for agreeing new international climate treaty

End 2012: Kyoto Protocol expires

2020: Target date to achieve the EU's objective to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20%

Policy Summary: A growing body of scientific literature shows that climate change is happening and that it is influenced by human activities that have led to a marked increase in greenhouse gas emissions since pre-industrial times.

The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN scientific body, pointed out that 11 of the twelve years between 1995 and 2006 rank among the warmest 12 years on record.

Since the early 1990s, climate change has been moving up the international and European political agenda. The political consensus is that global temperature rises should be limited to 2°C above pre-industrial levels in order to avoid potential catastrophic consequences: heatwaves, floods, storms, etc. To provide an international framework for stabilising greenhouse gas emissions, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was opened for signature in 1992 and entered into force in March 1994.

Under the convention, an international climate agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, was adopted in December 1997. It sets binding emission reduction targets for industrialised countries and creates three 'flexible mechanisms' to help lower the costs of reducing emissions: the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), Joint Implementation (JI) and Emissions Trading.

The Kyoto Protocol entered into force in February 2005 without being ratified by the US. The withdrawal from the treaty by President George W. Bush in 2001 was a major setback as it effectively left one of the world's biggest emitters without any climate commitments.

In the context of the Kyoto Protocol, the EU-15 committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to 8% below 'base year' 1990 levels before 2012, while 10 out of the 12 new member states negotiated their own targets individually.

International Efforts

The European Union has long been a driving force in international negotiations that led to agreement on the two United Nations climate treaties, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992 and the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

The Kyoto Protocol requires the 15 countries that were EU members at the time ('EU-15') to reduce their collective emissions in the 2008-2012 period to 8% below 1990 levels. Emissions monitoring and projections show that the EU-15 is well on track to meet this target.

In 2007 EU leaders endorsed an integrated approach to climate and energy policy and committed to transforming Europe into a highly energy-efficient, low carbon economy. They made a unilateral commitment that Europe would cut its emissions by at least 20% of 1990 levels by 2020. This commitment is being implemented through a package of binding legislation.

The EU has also offered to increase its emissions reduction to 30% by 2020, on condition that other major emitting countries in the developed and developing worlds commit to do their fair share under a future global climate agreement. This agreement should take effect at the start of 2013 when the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period will have expired.

The Cancún Agreement, a balanced and substantive package of decisions adopted at the end of the UN Climate Conference in Mexico (December 2010), represents an important step on the road to building a comprehensive and legally binding framework for climate action for the period after 2012.


"What Is the EU Doing on Climate Change? - Policies - Climate Action - European Commission." EUROPA - European Commission - Homepage. Web. 28 Mar. 2011. <>.

"What We Do - DG CLIMA at a Glance - Climate Action - European Commission." EUROPA - European Commission - Homepage. Web. 28 Mar. 2011. <>.


External Links

- European Commission

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