EU Targets Zero Greenhouse gas Emissions

23.05.2018 -

The European Union, the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is aiming to cut emissions to zero by 2050, Miguel Arias Cañete, commissioner for energy and climate change, said in a blog post. Reports said the target already has the backing of the European Parliament, and the Commission is due to launch public consultations shortly.

Despite progress on some fronts, Cañete pointed to the United Nations’ annual report for 2017, which shows that most countries, inside and outside the EU, are far behind on emissions reductions.

No details have yet emerged about steps the Commission wants to see taken to speed up the anti-pollution effort or whether any exceptions will be made for industries or sectors that haven’t found a viable alternative.

Cañete noted that the emissions still permitted will have to be offset through negative-emissions technology, which will require capturing carbon dioxide from the air. Though the technology is currently considered too expensive, many think that with the right incentives more affordable technologies could be developed during the more than 30 year lead-time.

Six countries face charges for excessive pollution

Last week, the Commission said it would take six member states to the European Court of Justice for breaching EU anti-pollution standards.

 The EU’S estimates of pollution violations were based on European Environment Agency (EEA) measurements of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and smog (O3). Along with cars and industry, the agency also pointed a finger at the agriculture sector as a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Some countries – notably Germany, the UK and France – are being punished for excessive nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions, others for violating rules on particulate matter. The Commission also charged that they failed to take appropriate measures to keep exceedance periods as short as possible.

According to the EEA, Germany was responsible for the highest number of deaths attributable to all air pollution sources, emitting nearly 81 micrograms of NO2 per cubic meter of air — twice as much as the allowed threshold of 40 micrograms. Second worst NO2 emitter was the UK with more than 64 micrograms, followed by France with almost 64 micrograms. The three countries are the EU’s most densely populated.

Italy, Hungary, and Romania will also face the court over breaching particulate matter standards. The Commission said measures being put in place or planned by the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Spain appear to be sufficient to “appropriately tackle the identified gaps.” Poland and Bulgaria faced the EU’s wrath earlier this year.

In 2016, the EEA identified air pollution as Europe’s top health hazard. In marked contrast to the EU’s action, the administration of US president Donald Trump administration is considering forming a "Clean and Advanced Fossil Fuel Alliance," which would advocate for natural gas and coal technology and exports.

According to documents obtained by a US energy trade journal, Washington’s plans are in response to the plans drafted by a coalition of nations that pledged to phase out coal-fired power at last year's UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany.