Exploring the Future: New Trends in Low Carbon and Environmental Protection in the European Union

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  • Date:2024/05/07

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Why reduce carbon emissions to protect the environment?

The continuous increase in carbon emissions will cause global warming, glacier melting, rising sea levels, and flooding of continents. At the same time, it will cause: abnormal climate and an increase in ocean storms; Land drought and increased desertification area; The increase in diseases and pests on Earth. Therefore, carbon reduction is urgent and has become a common action worldwide.


EU measures to address climate change

To address climate change, the European Parliament has passed the European Climate Law, which increases the EU's 2030 emission reduction target from 40% to at least 55% and stipulates that achieving climate neutrality by 2050 is legally binding.

The Climate Law is part of the European Green Agreement, which is a roadmap for the EU to achieve climate neutrality. In order to achieve its climate goals, the EU has proposed an ambitious legislative plan called "Suitable for 55 People by 2030". It includes 13 interrelated revised laws and 6 proposed laws on climate and energy.

The EU is striving to demonstrate its leading role in addressing climate change. Recently, the European Commission released a report entitled "Europe's 2040 Climate Goals and the Path to Climate Neutrality by 2050- Building a Sustainable, Just, and Prosperous Society", proposing a mid-term climate target of "reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2040 compared to 1990". This is slightly higher than the "linear" requirement of the EU's plan to achieve climate neutrality goals, but the EU can clearly do better.

Previously, the European Scientific Advisory Committee on Climate Change had recommended that the EU "strive to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 90% to 95% by 2040 compared to 1990.".



The fifteen member states of the European Union have unanimously agreed to the greenhouse gas reduction targets set by the Kyoto Protocol. According to the protocol, by 2012, the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the fifteen EU countries will be reduced by 8% from 1990 levels. To achieve this goal, EU member states have reached an agreement on "emission reduction sharing" to specifically implement their respective emission reduction targets. The agreement stipulates that some member countries (Germany, Denmark, and the United Kingdom) must significantly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, some member countries (France) can maintain emissions at 1990 levels, and other member countries (Spain, Portugal, and Greece) can appropriately increase emissions from 1990 levels.

In October 2001, the European Union adopted a series of measures to address climate change policies, including the EU's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and the establishment and implementation of the draft guidelines for the EU's greenhouse gas emissions trading system.


EU policy measures

Industrial Emission Trading System

The EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) aims to reduce industry carbon emissions by requiring companies to hold licenses for each ton of carbon dioxide they emit. The company must purchase them through auction. There are some incentive measures that can promote innovation in the industry.

The European Emissions Trading System is the world's first major carbon market and remains the largest carbon market. It regulates about 40% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union, covering approximately 10000 power plants and manufacturing factories in the EU. In order to align with the emission reduction targets of the European Green Agreement, the parliament approved an update to the plan in April 2023. The reform includes reducing the emissions of sectors covered by the emissions trading system from 2005 levels to 62% by 2030.


Emissions from aircraft and ships

Civil aviation accounts for 13.4% of the total carbon dioxide emissions from EU transportation. In April 2023, the parliament supported the revision of the aviation emissions trading system to apply to all flights departing from the European Economic Area (composed of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway). Currently, flights departing and landing outside the region are protected by international aviation voluntary carbon offsetting and emission reduction programs.

The EU also hopes to gradually eliminate free allocation of aviation by 2026 and promote the use of sustainable aviation fuels.

Maritime transportation will also be included in the emissions trading system. Members of the European Parliament hope that the maritime sector will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships by 2% by 2025, 14.5% by 2035, and 80% by 2050 compared to 2020. The reduction measures should apply to ships with a total tonnage exceeding 5000 tons, which account for 90% of carbon dioxide emissions.


Road emissions from automobiles

The carbon dioxide emissions generated by cars and trucks account for 15% of the European Union. The parliament supports the committee's proposal to achieve zero carbon dioxide emissions from cars and trucks by 2035, with a mid-term emission reduction target of 55% and 50% for cars and trucks respectively by 2030.

To achieve these goals, all new cars entering the EU market by 2035 should achieve zero carbon dioxide emissions. These rules will not affect existing cars.

The transition to zero emission vehicles must go hand in hand with the comprehensive infrastructure of sustainable fuels. European Parliament members hope that by 2026, there will be at least one car charging station every 60 kilometers on major roads in the European Union, and by 2028, there will be one hydrogen refueling station every 100 kilometers.


Reducing emissions from the energy sector

More than three-quarters of EU greenhouse gas emissions are caused by fuel combustion. Reducing energy consumption and developing clean energy are key to achieving the EU climate goals and reducing dependence on imports from non EU countries.


Consume less energy

In July 2023, the parliament approved new rules to promote energy conservation. EU countries should jointly ensure that energy consumption at the EU level is reduced by at least 11.7% by 2030 (compared to the 2020 forecast for 2030 energy consumption). By the end of 2030, countries should achieve an average of 1.5% energy conservation per year.

Nowadays, the energy consumption of building heating and cooling accounts for 40% of the total energy consumption in the European Union. The parliament is formulating building energy performance rules with the goal of achieving zero emissions from building stock by 2050. The rules include:

-Transformation strategy

-Require all new buildings in the European Union to achieve zero emissions starting from 2030

-Installing solar panels on new buildings


Increase renewable energy

Developing clean energy as an alternative to fossil fuels will also help the EU reduce emissions. Currently, over 20% of the EU's energy consumption comes from renewable energy sources.

In December 2022, members of the European Parliament called for an accelerated issuance of licenses for renewable energy power plants, including solar panels and wind turbine power plant licenses.

Members of the European Parliament are considering promoting the development of offshore renewable energy beyond renewable hydrogen and wind energy, such as wave energy. The EU's funding for natural gas infrastructure projects is gradually being phased out, with funds shifting towards hydrogen and offshore renewable energy infrastructure.

In September 2023, the parliament supported an agreement to promote the deployment of renewable energy in accordance with the Green Agreement and efforts to reduce dependence on Russian energy. The new regulation aims to increase the share of renewable energy in the EU's final energy consumption to 42.5% by 2030, while the target for EU countries should be 45%.


Carbon pricing of imported goods

The carbon boundary adjustment mechanism will encourage companies within and outside the European Union to decarbonize and set carbon prices for imports of certain goods from countries with less ambitious climate legislation. Its purpose is to avoid carbon leakage, where industry shifts production to countries with less stringent greenhouse gas emission regulations.


Using forests to capture emissions

Forests are natural carbon sinks, which means they capture more carbon from the atmosphere than they release. The EU forests absorb nearly 7% of the EU's total greenhouse gas emissions annually. The EU hopes to use this force to address climate change.

In March 2023, the parliament and council approved new rules for managing the land use, land use change, and forestry sectors, aiming to increase EU carbon sinks by 15% by 2030.


Reduce greenhouse gas emissions other than carbon dioxide

In order to alleviate global warming, the EU is also working to regulate other greenhouse gases that cause global warming, such as methane, fluoride gases, and ozone depleting substances. Although their content in the atmosphere is lower than carbon dioxide, they can produce significant warming effects and are protected by the Paris Agreement.


Addressing climate change by protecting biodiversity and restoring nature

Restoring natural ecosystems and protecting biodiversity are crucial for mitigating climate change, increasing natural carbon storage capacity, and enhancing resilience to climate change.

Forests play an important role in absorbing and offsetting carbon emissions. In April 2023, the parliament passed rules to ensure that goods imported into the European Union do not cause deforestation or forest degradation anywhere in the world.


What will global climate change affect?

The main reasons for reducing carbon emissions are as follows:

Global climate change. The burning of fossil fuels and other activities by humans generate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, leading to global warming and causing a series of environmental problems, such as glacier melting, rising sea levels, and species extinction.

The number of extreme weather events is increasing. Climate change leads to frequent extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts, floods, etc., which have serious impacts on human life and natural ecosystems.

Rising sea levels and threats to coastal cities. Glacier melting and thermal expansion lead to rising sea levels, posing a threat to the security of coastal cities and small island countries.

Biodiversity and ecosystem damage. Climate change affects biodiversity and ecosystems, such as ocean acidification, permafrost reduction, forest degradation, etc.

Agriculture and natural ecosystems are affected. Climate change leads to unstable agricultural production and poses a threat to natural ecosystems.

Changes in the distribution of water resources. Climate change causes changes in the distribution of water resources, leading to frequent floods and droughts.


Therefore, reducing carbon emissions is a key measure to address climate change, protect the ecological environment, safeguard human well-being, and promote sustainable development. Various countries have put forward the goals of peaking carbon emissions and achieving carbon neutrality, and have taken measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as developing renewable energy, improving energy efficiency, and afforestation.


What can we do for the environment?

Global climate change is affecting everyone, and addressing climate change is not only a matter of government and business actions, but also requires each and every one of us to take action in various aspects of our daily lives, such as food, clothing, housing, transportation, and tap into the potential for emission reduction.


Food: Avoid food waste. Grain may incur some losses during the stages of harvesting, transportation, processing, distribution, and storage, but the waste at home is even greater. According to data, 1.3 billion tons of grain are wasted worldwide, accounting for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Clothing: Buy less unnecessary clothes, optimize consumption habits, and reduce the generation of waste. Experts believe that the key is to abandon the habit of buying in large quantities and then throwing away old items.

Residential: Purchase high-efficiency air conditioners. The common energy efficiency levels for air conditioners in the market are level 3, with level 1 being the highest level of energy efficiency and level 3 being the market access level. High efficiency air conditioners may be slightly more expensive, but they are more cost-effective to use. In addition, the temperature of the air conditioner is set at around 26 ℃ in summer and 18-20 ℃ in winter, which is more beneficial for human health and can greatly save energy.

Travel: Low carbon travel. Transportation is one of the most important areas of action, and it is best to mainly walk, ride bicycles, and take public transportation for transportation. From a long-distance perspective, railway transportation has the least impact on the environment.

Usage: Use green energy. For example, fully biodegradable products that can self degrade and safely return to nature can greatly reduce their impact on the environment.





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