The EU could double its 2020 target for cutting greenhouse gases at a daily cost of EUR2 per person, the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), a research group, said yesterday (1 December).
Slashing emissions 40% below 1990 levels in 2020 and 90% by 2050 would be possible with radical changes to how Europeans use energy, a new study showed. This would be technically feasible without international offsetting schemes or resorting to carbon capture and storage (CCS), it said.
The researchers mapped out a pathway that foresees a quick phase-out of fossil fuels, combined with a major shift to renewable energy. It would make up 22% of the energy mix in 2020 and 71% in 2050.
Energy efficiency would improve massively, according to the study's outline: in 2020, Europe would use around 22% less energy than in 2010, and 70% less in 2050.
The study was released ahead of the start of the Copenhagen climate negotiations, with the EU having said it will raise its 20% carbon reduction target to 30% if other developed countries make comparable pledges. Whether the EU is ready to take such a step will now depend on the US and China (EurActiv 24/11/09).
The changes must be accompanied by a less materialistic society, where major lifestyle changes would lead Europeans to embrace public transport and eat less meat, the authors argue.
They paint a picture whereby journeys made by car would be reduced from 75% in 2005 to 69% in 2020. High-speed rail would replace intra-European flights. Moreover, big developments in the transport sector would include an increased share of electrified cars from 2020 onwards, with virtually all vehicles running on electricity in 2050.
The study estimates that Europe would have to pay around EUR2 trillion over the next decade to realise this scenario, equivalent to about 2% of Europe's GDP over the same period. But the authors say this is a small price to pay for equitable growth in the future, because it would only require temporarily holding back any GDP growth for one year.
But in order to meet the EU's total mitigation obligations, aggressive domestic action needs to be accompanied with a substantial commitment to international financing. The study suggests that the EU must spend between EUR150 and EUR450 billion annually by 2020 to finance efforts in the developing world.
The EU has said that around EUR100 billion would be needed for developing countries by 2020, but is awaiting proposals from other countries before specifying its own contribution (EurActiv 30/10/09).
The study is based on the principle of equality, so that richer member states would bear most of the burden while poorer countries would be given room to grow, said Esther Bollendorff of Friends of the Earth, who partnered with SEI for the study.
Most of the payments would come from EU-15 countries, Bollendorff said. She added that additional instruments like carbon taxes and redirecting subsidies from fossil fuels to renewables would be necessary.
"First of all, we will have a balancing out of GDP throughout Europe," she said. "So we assume that we come to a more equal Europe."