Entirely inadequate: Oxfam response to European Commission’s new proposals to cut emissions and green transport

Today the European Commission unveiled measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions focused on transport, buildings, land and agriculture, which Oxfam says puts the European Union at odds with its commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Marc-Olivier Herman, Oxfam’s expert on climate and energy, said:

“The Commission’s proposals are entirely inadequate and urgently need to be fixed if the EU is to meet the commitments it made in Paris.

“Through newly proposed 'flexibilities,' countries will be able claim carbon credits by planting trees and from dubious accounting of their forest management instead of insulating homes and investing in more sustainable agriculture and transport. The EU cannot continue to claim climate leadership if it cooks the books.

“In a world faced with the triple challenge of climate change, population growth and diminishing natural resources there is simply no space for harmful biofuels. The Commission today has missed an opportunity to say this loud and clear.

"We urge members of the European Parliament and Member States to help steer the Commission in the right direction, or they risk turning their back on the millions of lives threatened by climate change,” said Herman.

Notes to editors: 

The Commission proposes cutting emissions by 30%, compared to 2005 levels, from transportation, agriculture, buildings and waste by 2030. The emissions from these industries, which will be regulated by the EU’s Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) proposed today, add up to about 60% of the EU’s total emissions. Oxfam calls for an additional 15% reduction in cuts, and a further review of all of the EU’s 2030 emission cut targets to guarantee the EU stays on track to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Worse still, the Commission’s proposals will further weaken the ESR rules by allowing Member States to claim carbon credits from Land Use, Land Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF).

On biofuels, the Commission sent out a mixed message today. It claims support for food-based biofuels should end after 2020 but will only consider their “gradual phase out and replacement by more advanced biofuels”. The Commission also remains silent as to how it will ensure the more advanced biofuels it will promote after 2020 are sustainable. Oxfam has called for EU biofuel targets to be scrapped after 2020.

The proposals presented today are based on the decision of EU heads of state and government of October 2014 to achieve “at least 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990.”

This objective was adopted over year before the Paris Agreement and is in no way compatible with keeping temperature rise well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to achieve 1.5°C as required by the Paris Agreement. It translates into a 43% reduction for the energy intensive sectors regulated under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and a 30% reduction for the sectors regulated under today’s proposed ESR.

The land use, land use change, and forestry (LULUCF) sector in Europe is currently a net carbon sink.  Today the Commission has proposed 280 million tons of CO2 equivalent of LULUCF offsets. This flawed proposal could lead to additional emissions equal to 1.35 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030 in agriculture, surface transport and buildings, if some Member States get their way and carbon removals from forests and land use are allowed to count towards emissions reduction efforts in sectors regulated under the ESR. This carbon removal from LULUCF cannot be relied upon because it is not permanent. Current measurements of LULUCF carbon removals are unreliable and can be overestimated by Member States.

Current EU Legislation sets a binding target for renewable energy in transport of 10% by 2020. This target is almost entirely met through blending food-based biofuels in spite of the detrimental impacts of these biofuels on the climate, people and the environment. In 2015, EU legislation was amended to limit the share of food-based biofuels to 7%. The policy document published by the Commission today is titled A European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility. It lays out the Commission’s thinking in advance of a legislative proposal on renewable energy for the period 2021-2030 that the Commission will table at the end of the year.

Contact information: 

Simon Hernandez-Arthur in Washington


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