Europe Enhances its Greenhouse Gas Goals

Bold goals are ineffective on their own. But Britain’s aggressive ambition to reduce carbon emissions is promising.

The UK government recently and radically revised its target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to at least 68% less than 1990’s1 (598 million tons2). Last year it set a net zero target for 20503.

The announcement came four weeks before the UK will be outside the EU. Perhaps an attempt to distance itself in the right direction: The EU’s overall greenhouse emissions goal is a reduction on 1990 levels by 55%4, with some variations established by individual member countries; below5.

Country Target for Greenhouse Gas Emissions reduction; – 1990 levels
…by year:  2020 2030 2050
Ireland 20% 40% 80-95%
Iceland6 20% 40% 50-75%
Denmark7 40% 70% Net Zero
Norway8 30% 55% 90-95%
Sweden 40% 70% (transport emissions only) [2045] 85%+
Germany9 40% 65%* 95%

But is it just hot air? The UK, along with the rest of the EU, plus Russia and the United States of America have at least moved in the right direction since 1990, proving it’s possible for a growing economy to shrink its CO2 emmisions.

The six regions shown below comprise 50% of the worlds population and 62% of its GDP — as well as fossil fuel consumption.

CO2graphModified from EU JRC report10

Representations like this can vilify China, but the country has a huge population: Carbon dioxide emissions are 8.123 tons per capita. By that measure, still better that the United States’ 15.5 tons11 — for the present time, at least.

Of course, efforts towards realising such reductions is more important than hopeful goals. The UK made a significant step by divesting from overseas fossil fuels projects, following pressure from Greenpeace12.

*Germany increased 2030 target from 55% to 65%. It also has a 2040 target of 88% and for net neutrality by 2045. 

1. UK sets ambitious new climate target ahead of UN Summit, UK Government, 2020-12-03
2. 1990-2013 greenhouse gas emissions: final figures – statistical release, UK Government, 2015-02-03
3. UK becomes first major economy to pass net zero emissions law, UK Government, 2019-06-27
4. (EU target revised on 11 December 2020 from 40% by 2030) EU Agrees to Slash Carbon Emissions by 2030, New York Times, 2020-12-11
5. Submission by Latvia and the European Commission on behalf of the European Union and its Member States (Represents Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden, and United Kingdom), Latvian Presidency of the Council of the EU, 2015-07-06
Iceland’s Climate Change Strategy, Ministry for the Environment, 2007-02
7. Denmark adopts climate law to cut emissions 70% by 2030, Climate Home News, 2019-12-06
8. Climate Action Tracker; Norway
9. Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions and climate targets, Clean Energy Wire, 2019-11-20
10. p. 4, Fossil CO2 emissions of all world countries, EC Joint Research Centre, 2020
11. pp. 70 & 229, Ibid
12. UK to stop funding overseas fossil fuel projects, Guardian, 2020-12-11

Further Reading

Political Power Pushes Electric Vehicles
Europe’s Enthusiam for Hydrogen

German Attitudes to Greening Industry

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