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Update: Europe 2020 targets

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

The Europe 2020 strategy, adopted by the European Council in June 2010, aims at establishing a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy with high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion. The key objectives of the strategy are expressed in the form of five ambitious targets in the areas of employment, research & development (R&D), climate change & energy, and education and poverty reduction, to be reached by 2020. These have been translated into national targets in order to reflect the situation and possibilities of each Member State to contribute to the common goal.

Eurostat has published the 2015 edition of the ‘Smarter, greener, more inclusive?’ report, which provides past trends and the latest statistics useful to support the Europe 2020 strategy and to back up the monitoring towards its headline targets.

Climate change and energy

The Europe 2020 strategy sets three objectives for climate and energy policy, to be reached by 2020:

  • Reducing GHG emissions by at least 20% compared with 1990 levels.
  • Increasing the share of renewable energy in final energy consumption to 20%.
  • Moving towards a 20% increase in energy efficiency.


At first glance, the EU has made substantial progress towards its energy and climate objectives. In 2012, GHG emissions (including international aviation) were down by 18% compared with 1990 levels, approaching the headline target to reduce emissions by 20% by 2020. Primary energy consumption (PEC) fell to 1584 million toe in 2012, after growing almost continuously between 1990 and 2007. In 2012, the EU consumed 7.5% less primary energy than in 2005 – the base year of the energy efficiency target. To achieve the target of improving energy efficiency by 20% by 2020, the EU has to reduce PEC by a further 6.3% over a period of eight years.

By far the strongest decline in energy consumption and GHG emissions within one year since the early 1990s occurred from 2008 to 2009 (–7.3%). During this time the economic crisis led to reduced industrial production, transport volumes and energy demand. The following years only saw slow recovery in many parts of Europe. The decline of CO2 emissions observed during the 2009 to 2012 period can be attributed to three main factors: the improvement of the primary energy intensity of the EU economy, the development of renewables and the economic slowdown. The economic slowdown, however, accounts for less than a half of the total emission reductions achieved during this period.

With respect to renewable energies, progress towards a restructured low carbon economy is clearly noticeable. Between 2004 and 2012, the share of final energy from renewable source increased by 70%, reaching 14.1% in gross final energy consumption in 2012. Thanks to effective support schemes and dramatic cost reductions, the share of wind and solar energy has increased particularly quickly. The renewable energy industry has become a key sector for research and innovation in Europe, generating a rapidly increasing number of patents between 2000 and 2009. In regions with favourable weather conditions and high electricity prices, solar and wind projects are becoming increasingly competitive with fossil fuel based power generation, even without subsidies.

On the global level, reductions in EU GHG emissions and energy consumption have been offset by significant increases in other parts of the world. Global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion rose by 49% between 1990 and 2011. The increase was particularly strong in China, which more than tripled its annual CO2 emissions in these two decades.

Efforts required to meet the Europe 2020 targets

According to the latest Member State projections, the EU28 will overachieve its 2020 emission reduction target for the sectors not covered by the EU ETS by 1%. However, only 15 Member States are expected to reach their commitments with the existing policies and measures, while 13 are unlikely to be able to meet their commitments unless additional measures are implemented. A major policy challenge is to improve consistency in the Member States’ domestic climate policy frameworks. Additional measures could focus on ensuring investment security for innovative green technologies and changing the tax system to give greater incentives for energy efficiency.

With respect to the renewable energy target, the European Commission’s 2013 Progress Report warns that more effort will be needed to sustain high levels of investment in renewable energy projects. Compared with the National Renewable Energy Action Plans prepared by Member States, projections indicate that only 50% of total wind generation planned in 2020 might actually be produced. By contrast, projections for electricity generation from photovoltaics are above planned levels. In its progress report, the European Commission also states that fundamental changes to the support schemes in some Member States have raised the regulatory risk for investors. This has added to an already difficult financing environment. The Commission also concludes that the removal of planning and licensing administrative barriers is not occurring fast enough.

As foreseen by the Europe 2020 strategy, tapping the remaining greenhouse gas reduction potential can have significant socioeconomic and environmental benefits. This has been demonstrated in the ‘Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050’. The EU can create jobs in high technology industries; it can become a lead market in fields with high global demand and reduce energy dependence. More renewables and improved energy efficiency could save the EU between €175 and 320 billion of energy import costs per year over the next 40 years. As recognised in the flagship initiative ‘Innovation Union’, a push for technological and policy innovation will be crucial to accomplishing this transformation.

Click here to access the ‘Smarter, greener, more inclusive?’ report for more information on climate change and energy, or the EU’s other headline targets.

Adapted from report by Rosalie Starling

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