The European Union (EU) has committed to several climate and energy targets which aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy efficiency and boost the use of renewable energy sources. How does the EEA track the progress EU Member States are making in reaching these goals? We asked Melanie Sporer, EEA expert on climate change mitigation and energy, to explain the Agency’s role in this task. She has also explained the annual progress in the latest Trends and Projections report.
Why does the EEA carry out a ‘Trends and projections’ report, why is it relevant?
Our annual ‘Trends and projections’ report‘ is an important part of the data monitoring and reporting we do. We assess the progress of the Member States and the EU as a whole in meeting the climate and energy targets they have set. These include, for 2020, a 20% reduction of greenhouse gases, a 20% share of renewable energy sources in gross final energy consumption, and reaching a 20% energy efficiency target.
The aim of the assessment is to show the latest up-to-date progress by the EU as a whole and the individual member states in meeting the targets. This exercise allows us to see whether more efforts are needed in order to reach the targets in 2020 as well as the longer-term objectives set for 2030 and beyond (2050). The report compiles and analyses in detail all of the data and information on progress to the targets in one EU assessment. It serves a valuable role not only for policy makers at both EU and national levels, but also for NGOs, researchers, and the public when they want to monitor progress and understand different trends. The fact that the data are reported by countries themselves (and further checked by the EEA) also allows us to point directly at those countries which are not living up to their ambitions.
What are the main elements of this year’s Trends and Projections report?
The most important results of this year’s report are that the EU as a whole is still on track to meet its 2020 targets in all three areas. However, the picture differs across Member States. And also, if we look at more ambitious longer-term targets, the report makes it clear that we really need to step up our efforts there.
When it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the EU was already below the 20% target in 2015 and reduced emissions further in 2016. For these years, we saw a 22% and a 23% reduction respectively, compared to 1990.
On renewable energy, in 2015 and 2016 we made enough progress to be ahead of the indicative trajectory towards the aimed 20% share of renewables in final energy consumption. The steady deployment of renewable energy sources in the EU’s energy mix continues and the EU as a whole is at about 17%. If we continue the current pace of renewable deployment, the EU would meet the 2030 target of 27% energy use coming from renewable sources, but there is some evidence that renewable energy deployment has slightly slowed down in 2015 and 2016 compared to the average pace recorded since 2005. Without clear national policies, it might slow down even more after 2020.
For energy efficiency, it’s a bit different this year. Between 2005 and 2014 we saw a downward trend in energy consumption overall. In 2015 and 2016, energy consumption slightly increased, which doesn’t mean we altered the longer-term trend, but we have to observe this development carefully. It is important that extra measures are taken to ensure the EU stays on track. Member States need to strengthen their efforts to keep energy consumption in check, especially if the current economic growth continues. It is also a matter of the ambition level. Member states are free to set their own national targets, but taken together the national targets are less ambitious than the target adopted at EU level. In other words, the overall ambition level of countries is currently not enough to achieve the EU target.
What are the difficult areas specifically, in terms of meeting the targets?
When it comes to reducing emissions, it is definitely what we call the non-trading sectors, such as transport, buildings, and agriculture, that pose problems for Member States. These are the sectors for which emissions are not covered by the EU Emissions Trading System. Member States have national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets covering these sectors, as set under the Effort Sharing Decision (ESD). Despite the overall downward trend in the non-trading sectors, emissions in the transport sector have been rising again in recent years. Moreover, Member States currently project only limited decreases in ESD emissions until 2030. The largest decreases are expected in the building sector.
What forms the basis of the ‘Trends and Projections’ report? What other work in this area of 2020 targets does the EEA work on?
At the EEA, we do a lot of data analysis, including quality checks and monitoring of progress, often in close coordination with the European Commission. We publish indicators that complement the assessments. We also produce climate and energy country profiles, which show country-by-country comparison charts and progress to meeting the national targets. Most of the data used are reported by Member States under EU reporting mechanisms.
We are also involved in the annual review of greenhouse gas emissions under the Effort Sharing Decision (under which Member States have emissions targets for every year between 2013 and 2020). Each year the EU checks the compliance of Member States. The EEA has an important role in this process: we coordinate this annual review exercise. We don’t do the compliance, but we prepare the data, verify it and ensure it is consistent and comparable. It is quite a big exercise that we carry out together with about 22 reviewers from different Member States, between January and June.
The Agency also works on other related reports. We will have a new report on renewable energy that will be published soon. These various analyses will also be reflected in our flagship ‘State of the Environment’ report, which will be published by 2020.