Les quelque 58 % des émissions de gaz à effet de serre de l’UE qui ne sont pas soumis au système d’échange de quotas d’émission (ETS) relèvent de la décision relative au partage de l'effort. Si cette tendance s’intensifiait, cet instrument pourrait devenir un outil puissant en vue de réduire les émissions, écrit David Holyoake.
David Holyoake est conseiller juridique pour l’organisation de défense de l’environnement Client Earth.
Tomorrow, the European Council will discuss the role of energy policies in promoting EU jobs, growth and competitiveness while also securing decarbonisation objectives. Our national leaders have rightly understood that our energy choices will determine our economic future. We can only hope that they also fully realise the extent to which climate and economic objectives go hand in hand.
If Europe fails to make large strides towards energy savings and does not avoid further lock-in to high carbon infrastructure, it will never be adequately shielded from rising energy imports. Without a long term regulatory framework for greenhouse gas reductions, it will also fail to establish an attractive investment environment for a range of future technologies across sectors.
Until now, the focal point for climate and energy objectives has been fixing the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), which covers the EU’s largest industrial plants including energy generation. The events of recent weeks have revealed just how politically sensitive this has become. As we start asking the question 'where next' for climate and energy policy, my prediction is that we will see renewed attention on the potential of investing in sectors outside the ETS to deliver ambitious emissions reductions and stimulate the economy.
A far broader cross-section of industry is not part of the EU ETS. Transport, lighter industry, buildings and agriculture all fall outside yet contribute significantly to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In fact, these non-ETS sectors account for 58% of EU greenhouse gas emissions and are covered by another EU law that is rarely spoken of: the EU Effort Sharing Decision (ESD), which gives legal effect to the non-ETS part of the greenhouse gas target for 2020.
The ESD is intended to drive national and EU policy measures in buildings, transport, industry and agriculture. Effort Sharing sectors contain large amounts of cost-effective greenhouse gas reductions. Studies for the European Commission reveal at least 400 million tonnes of untapped reductions in non-ETS sectors could be achieved by 2020, from a diverse range of measures like building retrofits, reduction of leakage in gas transmission, anaerobic digesters at farms, switch to electric cars, and others.
This would represent an additional emissions reduction roughly equivalent to the annual emissions of 113 coal fired power plants, or an additional 16% reduction on top of the 18% reductions (on 2005 levels) that are projected in EU ESD sectors by 2020. Over half of this tonnage comes at net cost savings, the rest between 0 and 50 euros a tonne. Some energy generation, particularly in heating and cooling, also falls under Effort Sharing.
In its current form the ESD enshrines low ambition and does not do enough to drive investment. However, if it were improved, it could be a powerful driver of emissions reductions and also help decrease Member States’ strong reliance on costly energy imports. After all, 25 out of 27 Member States are net energy importers. A reformed Effort-Sharing instrument should drive investment in a range of sectors, with a priority being given to energy efficiency and renewable energy as key domestic energy resources for the EU.
Measures to reduce non-ETS emissions also come with clear benefits for citizens – energy efficiency in building retrofits help shield consumers from rising energy bills, and cleaner transport will reduce illness and premature deaths associated with air pollution. A recent report by Cambridge Econometrics and Ricardo-AEA illustrates other benefits for citizens: cutting fuel use of cars by one quarter would enable households to save around €3,800 over the lifetime of their car. Furthermore, this would also create 350,000 to 450,000 net additional jobs in the EU by 2030.
But these and other benefits will only be realised if we have a strong, economy wide regulatory framework for climate change beyond 2020. When the UK debated introducing its Climate Change Act in 2008, there was a very high level of support from the business community for a binding economy wide framework to help minimise policy risk and attract international investment in the technologies of the future to the UK. While the world has changed since 2008, it is vital that we remember that all these arguments still apply and underscore the need for a strong climate framework for 2030.
My prediction is that the Effort-Sharing Decision holds the key to a political agreement on a climate and energy framework for 2030. It (or something similar) will need to continue beyond 2020 to ensure a binding equitable split between Member States for GHG targets. It answers the call of many Member States for some flexibility in the choice of national policy mix, and is based on the idea of equitable splits based on differing national circumstances and capacity. It can also relieve the pressure on the ETS by sharing the burden of responsibility for where emissions reductions can be achieved. As it stands now, the burden rests with the ETS: ETS sectors have to decrease their emissions by 21% below 2005 levels by 2020 whereas only 10% is required for effort-sharing sectors.
Tomorrow, when discussing Europe’s energy future, let’s hope the debate is not hijacked or confused, and that our national leaders have enough vision to air a broader range of opportunities, beyond ETS sectors, to get both greenhouse gas reductions and the economy back on track.