Today, the European Commission has released a new proposal for cutting emissions in transport, agriculture and buildings sectors by 2030, and suggests how this effort should be shared between Member States. This proposal introduces a number of dangerous loopholes that will allow Member States to escape responsibility for reducing emissions. It will not deliver Europe’s contribution to the Paris Agreement.

The draft proposal only targets a 30% reduction in emissions by 2030 against 2005 levels. Sandbag analysis shows that 50% cuts are achievable and can be delivered cost-effectively. The 30% target implies a meagre 4% cut in emissions beyond BAU between 2021-2030. But the reality is even worse than that; Sandbag calculates the Commission has thrown in so many loopholes through new flexibilities, that the new policy wouldn’t require any emission cuts beyond BAU at all.

The proposal would allow a flood of emission credits from elsewhere to dilute the EU’s climate ambition. In particular, credits from forestry and the Emissions Trading System (ETS) would mean that some Member States would do nothing to reduce their emissions at all against BAU. The proposal also increases the 2021 allocations for certain Member States that were already allowed to increase their emissions in the period to 2020, and despite the fact that the Commission already establishes their national reduction targets based on the relative GDP/capita for solidarity reasons. This is hugely unfair; it is creating an imbalanced playing field and will mean that much greater and more costly, emission reductions will be needed between 2030 and 2050.

Collectively, these flexibilities would add 420Mt CO2e to the total budget and would mean that there is no need for Europe to reduce its emissions as a whole. The new Member State loophole adds 39Mt, the ETS flexibility adds 100Mt and LULUCF adds 280Mt

Sandbag welcomes that the proposal will not allow the vast surplus of annual allocations from the first phase of the effort sharing policy to be carried over. This is vital for the integrity of EU climate policy. The Commission also plans to recalculate the starting point against actual emissions as they stand between 2016-2018, rather than what they were forecast to be. This is a positive step but Member States who fail to meet their 2020 targets must not be rewarded.

Debbie Stockwell, Managing Director of Sandbag, commented:

“The Commission’s proposal simply does not go far enough.   In the light of the Paris Agreement, Europe must be  more ambitious in cutting emissions, delivering up to 50% by 2030, and make it easier for Member States to meet targets by including flexibilities that drive cost-effective emission reductions.

The flexibilities proposed don’t do that – they provide loopholes which mean that Europe doesn’t have to make any additional effort to reduce emissions and will mean that emission reductions will need to happen more quickly, at greater cost after 2030.“



  1. What is the new proposal? The proposal is for a new Regulation for annual greenhouse gas emission reductions for Member States for the sectors not included in the EU Emissions Trading System, for the period 2021-30.  This Regulation covers approximately 60% of EU emissions, in transport, buildings, agriculture, and waste.

  2. The proposal builds on the Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) which was introduced in the EU 2020 Climate and Energy Package in 2009 The ESD between 2013 and 2020 has a target of reducing emissions by 10% compared to 2005 levels. The target is made up of individual targets for each Member State. These are based on historic emissions weighted by GDP/capita, with Member States with lower GDP having less stringent targets. Targets are expressed in tonnes in the form of Annual Emissions Allocations (AEAs).

  3. What is the European Project-Based Mechanism (EPM)? Sandbag proposes a domestic offsetting mechanism, in which a project in a host Member State would generate credits which other Members State would buy. This way Member States with higher than the EU average targets and limited cost-efficient emission reduction potential would be able to meet their targets, while the host countries would benefit from the increased investment flows in their economies.

  4. Sandbag’s recent ESD reports: The Effort Sharing Dinosaur (May 2016) and Bend it, Don’t break it (July 2016).

Image with thanks to Eden Bachar on Unsplash

Source: New feed