Transport remains thorn in the side of pan-European plan to slash emissions
Europe could cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 40% of 1990 levels within the next 25 years but our taste for travel could throw a spanner in the works of the carefully mapped out European Environment Agency (EEA) plan.
The need to aim for lower emissions in the future has been accepted by all members of the EU and predictions are that we can avoid an environmental Armageddon if global temperatures do not stray more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
So far the temperature has risen by around 0.7°C.
The effects of climate change are already being felt around the world with more frequent floods and droughts, other extreme weather events which are impacting water resources, ecosystems, agriculture and health.
The EEA’s report notes that the union cannot hope to turn the tide alone, but can dramatically reduce its contribution to CO2 emissions if it is prepared to overhaul its energy industry infrastructure.
More than half of the reductions required in the EU would be based on energy efficiency measures, both in production and consumption and a switch to low-carbon fuels coupled with an increase in energy from renewable sources, mainly from wind and biomass.
The remaining reductions would be achieved by buying carbon credits from countries with a surplus under an international emissions trading scheme.
Professor Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the EEA said: “Climate change is at the top of the international agenda and many people are now aware of the Kyoto Protocol.
“But the protocol is only a first step and the discussions have started as to what we do after 2012 to ensure that we do not exceed the two degree limit.
“In Europe we know that we cannot do it alone, but our political leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to global leadership on this issue and the agency has now mapped out possible pathways to delivering on this political commitment.
“Europe needs to remove environmentally harmful subsidies on energy, improve its energy efficiency and increase its share of renewable energy.
“It also needs to help develop an efficient global emissions trading market.
“Europeans need to transfer clean technology to developing countries and invest in more research and development in clean technology.
“All these actions are required, if we want to meet our political commitment.”
Progress is expected to be undermined, or at least slowed, by our love affair with the fossil fuel powered engines.
CO2 emissions from transport are projected to continue to grow to 25% or more above the 1990 level by 2030 because of the steady increase in passenger and freight demand.
The EEA recommends the removal of environmentally harmful subsidies to fossil fuels, saying such subsidies run into many billions of Euros every year.
By Sam Bond