Climate Change Legislation in the EU

As a member of the European Union (EU), the UK participates in EU action to tackle climate change. These include targets on emissions, efficiency and renewable energy.

Reducing emissions across the EU

The EU has committed to three targets for 2020. The first is to reduce emissions by 20% on 1990 levels. The second is to provide 20% of its total energy from renewables. The third is to increase energy efficiency by 20% from 2007 levels.

EU leaders have also endorsed an 80-95% reduction in emissions by 2050. A low carbon roadmap has been produced to show how this target could be achieved.

EU initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions include:

  • EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). The EU ETS works by capping overall emissions from high-emitting industry sectors and power stations, with a yearly decrease in the level of the cap. Within this cap, companies can buy and sell emission allowances as needed. This cap-and-trade approach gives companies the flexibility they need to cut their emissions in the most cost-effective way. The cap will lead to a 21% decrease in emissions by 2020.
  • Renewable Energy Directive. This was put in place to help the EU meet its renewables target. Renewables include biomass, wind power, solar power, hydropower, and geothermal energy. In addition at least 10 % of final energy consumption in the transport sector must come from renewables by 2020. Each Member State has an individual target within RED. The UK’s target is for 15%.
  • Energy Efficiency Directive (2012). This sets the framework for measures to promote energy efficiency across the EU and help the EU reduce its energy consumption by 20% .
  • New car and van CO2 targets. The EU has binding targets on the level of emissions allowed from new cars and vans to decrease emissions from road transport.
  • Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). The EU is supporting the development of CCS technology to trap and store CO2 emitted from power stations and other major industrial installations.
  • 2030 Climate Framework. The EU plans to propose next year a framework for reducing greenhouse gases in the period until 2030 to continue the trajectory toward a low-carbon economy in the period beyond 2020

Preparing for climate change in the EU

In April 2013 the EU adopted an adaptation strategy that encourages Members States and cities to produce comprehensive adaptation strategies. The framework also ensures that EU action is consistent with its climate adaptation objectives, particularly on agriculture, fisheries and cohesion policy. The European Environment Agency (EEA) is developing an adaptation preparedness scoreboard, identifying key indicators for measuring levels of readiness of Member States by 2014.

For up-to-date information about EU policies to prepare for climate change see the European Commission’s website.