Climate change mitigation

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Page Last modified 18 Sep 2019
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Climate change is happening now and is expected to continue. Mitigation, by preventing or reducing the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, can make the impacts of climate change less severe. To ensure that the EU is doing its fair share to help reduce global emissions, the EEA gathers data on European countries’ progress and makes this information available to policy makers, researchers, journalists and the public.

To avoid dangerous climate change, the 195 countries that signed the Paris Agreement of 2015 agreed ‘to keep the increase in global mean surface temperature to well below 2° C, and to limit the increase to 1.5° C, since this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change’. To achieve this objective, global emissions should peak as soon as possible and carbon neutrality should be achieved by the second half of the century.

The EU supports these objectives: it aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 % by 2050 compared with 1990 levels, and its Member States each set and pursue national emission reduction targets. In the shorter term, the EU has set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions levels by at least 40 % below 1990 levels by 2030.

Introduction

Greenhouse gases are emitted through both natural processes and human activities. The primary natural greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is water vapour. However, human activities release large amounts of other greenhouse gases, which increases their atmospheric concentration and enhances the greenhouse effect, thus warming the climate. The main sources of greenhouse gases from human activities are:

  • burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) in electricity generation, transport, industry and households (CO2);
  • agriculture (methane from livestock and manure);
  • land use change and deforestation (CO2);
  • land filling of waste (methane from decomposition); and
  • use of industrial fluorinated gases.

 

EU policies

Several EU initiatives aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Having achieved its objectives under the Kyoto Protocol for the period from 2008 to 2012, the EU adopted a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions further, to levels 20 % below those of 1990 by 2020. To achieve this target, a cap was set for the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). For emissions in sectors not covered by the ETS, individual national targets were set under the Effort Sharing Decision. At the same time, the EU has adopted legislation to increase the use of renewable energy, such as wind, solar, hydro and biomass, and to improve the energy efficiency of a wide array of equipment and household appliances. The EU also aims to support the development of carbon capture and storage technologies to trap and store CO2 emitted by power stations and other large installations.

As part of a framework of climate and energy policies, the EU has set a binding target to cut emissions in the EU territory by 2030 to levels at least 40 % below those in 1990. Emissions from land use, land-use change and forestry have also been incorporated into the EU’s emission reduction efforts. The European Energy Union, which aims to ensure that Europe has secure, affordable and climate-friendly energy, reinforces this objective.

 

EEA activities

By providing information on climate change in Europe and its Member States, the EEA supports the implementation of European legislation on climate change mitigation, the evaluation of EU policies and the development of long-term mitigation strategies. The EEA provides data, indicators, assessments and reports on greenhouse gas emissions trends, projections, and policies and measures in Europe.

The EEA works closely with EU institutions (for example the European Commission), experts from its European Topic Centre on Climate change Mitigation and Energy (ETC/CME) and its environment information and observation network (Eionet).

Key activities and products include the annual compilation of the official European Union greenhouse gas inventory and the annual assessment of the progress of EU and other European countries towards their climate and energy targets.

The EEA disseminates data and information on greenhouse gas emissions through various viewers, such as the greenhouse gas data viewer. It also maintains a database on national climate change mitigation policies and measures.

 

Related links

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

European Commission Directorate-General for Climate Action

European Topic Centre on Climate change Mitigation and Energy

 

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