The European Union must significantly increase its climate ambition if it is to achieve climate neutrality by the middle of the century and the targets set by the European Green Deal and the Paris Agreement, according to a new report published this week.
The report found that Europe must increase its emissions reduction targets to 65% on 1990 levels by 2030 – up from 40% – and must subsequently switch to 100% renewable energy by 2040.
These are the key findings from a new report published Wednesday by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin), which looks at how the necessary economic recovery packages planned by most European governments can integrate climate policy as a key component.
“The German EU Council Presidency could kill two birds with one stone: economic upturn and climate protection,” said study co-author Christian von Hirschhausen.
“To do this, it must ensure that the extensive stimulus packages under the European Green Deal are used for investments in renewable energies and energy efficiency.”
The new report – European Green Deal: Using Ambitious Climate Targets and Renewable Energy to Climb Out of the Economic Crisis – comes as Germany takes over the Presidency of the Council of the European Council for the next six months.
DIW Berlin subsequently hopes that Germany will use its EU Council Presidency to persuade EU Member States to adopt a common strategy for implementing the European Green Deal as part of their respective economic stimulus packages stemming from the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“So far, the EU Commission has assumed CO 2-Reduction target of 40%” said Claudia Kemfert, a co-author of the study. “But this will not make Europe climate neutral by 2050, as our calculations show. The goals have to be much more ambitious.”
The report’s figures are the result of a study which calculated the circumstances under which the goals of the European Green Deal could be achieved, and the subsequent costs involved in doing so.
The authors of the study compared a base scenario of 40% with a climate protection scenario that assumes a CO2 reduction of 65% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels – an ambition currently demanded by some groups in the EU Parliament.
The results showed that a target of 40% CO2 reduction by 2030 will only lead to an 80% reduction by 2050. To meet net-zero by 2050, emissions reductions by 2030 must be increased to 60-65%.
“But this is only possible if we convert our energy system to 100% renewable energies – and that by 2040,” said Karlo Hainsch, a study co-author.
Importantly, the study shows that even with a switch to 100% renewables, “energy supply remains secure” and “Countries which still use large amounts of coal or nuclear power, like France and Poland, can still completely switch to renewable energies in the 2040s.”
Such a scenario would not only set the European Union on track to net-zero emissions by 2050 but would also save around 60 billion tonnes of CO2. The report also concludes that “switching to 100 percent renewable energy is the most cost-effective alternative if only because of the environmental and climate costs avoided.”
“But a switch to 100% renewable energies cannot be had for free,” said Leonard Göke, a study co-author. “To do this, extensive investments have to be made.”
Specifically, the necessary investment for a complete transition to 100% renewables would require approximately €3,000 billion ($A4,865 billion). While this sum looks huge, it is also important to see that such a switch would be accompanied by a saving of almost €2,000 billion ($A3,200 billion) from not importing fossil fuels.
“Money from EU funds and economic stimulus programs should be connected to measures related to climate neutrality and renewable energy,” the authors conclude, including the €7.5 billion ($A12 billion) ‘Just Transition Fund’ (JTF) which the EU has set up to support structural change across the Union.
“Particular care must be taken to ensure that” funds such as the JTF as well as the social cohesion fund and the regional fund “are channeled into sustainable climate-neutral projects and are not used to support fossil development pathways, for example by funding CO2 capture technologies in large power plants,” the authors note.
“In addition, there are ongoing attempts to use the money from the fund to finance nuclear power, which would go against the objective of sustainable development.”
“Particular care must be taken to ensure that the funds go to future-proof, climate-neutral projects and are not used for the de facto stabilization of fossil development paths,” warned Pao-Yu Oei, a study co-author.