Climate change affects us all and is accelerating. Its impacts will become even more severe if the increase in global temperature is not kept below 1.5°C. The EU and its Member States are taking important steps to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.

Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities — mainly from burning fossil fuels, industrial production and agricultural activities are causing our climate to change at a rapid pace. Climate change is already impacting Europeans’ daily lives and will continue for the foreseeable future.

Already, flooding, droughts, heatwaves and other climate-related hazards are becoming more intense and frequent in Europe and abroad. These hazards have significant health and economic costs. Without increased ambition and rapid action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the impacts of climate change will continue and intensify.

Dealing with climate change requires two interlinked actions working together:

  • Climate change mitigation: reducing the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and enhancing their sinks to slow down climate change.
  • Climate change adaptation: actions to adapt to the impacts of climate change, like preventing flooding, preparing for heatwaves and reducing other climate risks.

With the European Climate Law, the EU made climate neutrality by 2050 a legally binding goal, set an interim target of a net 55% emission reduction by 2030 and is working on setting the 2040 target. The overarching framework for these is the European Green Deal, a roadmap for the EU to achieve sustainability by 2050.

Data show that summer 2023 was the warmest ever recorded at global level, and it was not an exception. Our indicator shows that the global mean near-surface temperature between 2013 and 2022 was 1.13 to 1.17°C warmer than the pre-industrial level, which makes it the warmest decade on record, which makes it the warmest decade on record. Scientific evidence is clear that this rise in temperature is due to the greenhouse gases that we are releasing into the atmosphere.

1.5 °C

temperature increase

is the target limit agreed upon at the COP27

2 °C

temperature increase

is the catastrophic threshold

Scientists often describe an increase of 2°C with respect to the pre-industrial period as the threshold for when there will be catastrophic consequences for the climate and the environment.

Still, countries at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh reiterated the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the impacts of climate change will be much lower at a global temperature increase of 1.5°C compared to 2°C and agreed to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, in line with the Paris Agreement.  

Across the EU, great action has been taken to mitigate and adapt to climate change. This is part of a worldwide effort that involves mitigation and adaptation measures.

Over the last decades, the EU has also taken steps to reduce emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change. The EU overachieved its 2020 reduction target of 20%, reducing its emissions by about a third since 1990. These efforts will need to increase substantially to achieve the EU’s target of at least 55% net emission reduction by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050.

Climate mitigation targets for 2030 also include:

  • Setting an ambitious, cost-effective and socially fair path to achieving climate neutrality by 2050;
  • Stimulating green job creation and continuing the EU’s track record of cutting greenhouse gas emissions while growing its economy;
  • Encouraging international partners to increase their ambition to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C and avoid the most severe consequences of climate change.

For climate change adaptation, policies, plans and measures are being taken to decrease the impacts and risks that climate change has on Europeans. The European Commission adopted the EU Adaptation Strategy that outlines a long-term vision for the EU to become climate-resilient by 2050. EU Member States also have adaptation strategies and plans specific to their country’s needs and risks.

EU's climate targets at a glance

Source: EEA Signals 2022 State of play

EU’s greenhouse gas emissions dropped last year, but accelerated efforts still needed

Greenhouse gas emissions dropped by two percent last year across the European Union, compared to 2021 levels according to estimates in the latest European Environment Agency (EEA) ‘Trends and Projections’ report.

However, despite gains made in emissions reductions, renewable energy and energy efficiency, the report cautions that accelerated action is urgently needed to meet the EU’s ambitious climate and energy targets.

Dive deeper

Our climate is changing. Find out what Europe is doing to adapt.

What causes climate change?

By burning fossil fuels, producing goods, cutting down forests, and farming livestock, Earth’s average temperatures are heating up. These activities release massive amounts of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, which increases the greenhouse effect and causes global warming. There are four main types of greenhouse gases created by human activity:

  • Carbon dioxide, stemming mainly from transport, coal, oil, deforestation and natural gas burned to generate heat and electricity;
  • Methane primarily from livestock waste management and fugitives from coal, oil and gas operations;
  • Nitrous oxide from fertiliser use;
  • Fluorinated gases from manufacturing and industry.

Is Europe on track towards climate resilience? Status in 2023

Climate risk assessments that take account of threats like heatwaves, droughts, floods and wildfires are increasingly being used to inform and improve national adaptation policies according to the latest European Environment Agency (EEA) assessment of national adaptation actions.

Heatwaves, droughts, floods and increasing wildfires were the top extreme weather events reported by national authorities. Many countries also reported that they expected an increase of frequency and intensity of these events.

More information