1.1. Climate change

Greenhouse effect

The greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon that supports life on Earth. Several gases, the greenhouse gases – GHG, form a barrier around the surface of the globe and retain the heat of the Sun reflected by the Earth. With this natural greenhouse effect, the mean temperature of our planet is 15°C; without it, the mean temperature would be -18°C.

The problem is that our current lifestyle generates GHG emissions in a quantity significantly greater than the planet can recycle. These gases then accumulate in the atmosphere and retain more heat than in their natural state. This is called the ‘additional greenhouse effect’, which causes global warming and alters our climate. For decades, GHG emissions have increased and predictions foresee a strong increase in mean temperatures globally.

Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which commits its Parties to set internationally binding emission reduction targets. Recognising that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere, as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity, the Protocol places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ (CBDR). The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005. The detailed rules for the implementation of the Protocol were adopted in Marrakesh, Morocco in 2001, and are referred to as the ‘Marrakesh Accords’. The first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012. At the climate conference in 2012 in Doha, Qatar, the parties agreed to extend the life of the Kyoto protocol meaning that a successor to the Protocol is set to be developed by 2015 and implemented by 2020

Commitment to reducing carbon

While the European Union (EU) is making good progress towards meeting its climate and energy targets for 2020, known as the ‘20-20-20’ targets , an integrated policy framework for the period up to 2030 was needed to ensure regulatory certainty for investors and a coordinated approach among Member States. The framework presented by the European Commission on 22 January 2014 seeks to drive continued progress towards a low-carbon economy. A centre piece of the framework is the target to reduce EU domestic GHG emissions by 40% below the 1990 level by 2030. By setting its level of climate ambition for 2030, the EU will also be able to engage actively in the negotiations on a new international climate agreement that should take effect in 2020. 3

This new target will also ensure that the EU is on a cost-effective track towards meeting its objective for 2050. The EU ’Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050’, published in 2011, aims to cut the EU’s GHG emissions by 80% by 2050 (compared with 1990 levels). The Roadmap describes how this can be achieved through improvements in energy efficiency, including transport, and the production of ’clean’ electricity. Sectors outside the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) have for the first time been given emission reduction targets at European level.

The ’Effort Sharing Decision’ establishes annual binding GHG emission targets for Member States for the period from 2013 to 2020. This aims to achieve an overall 10% reduction in emissions from the covered sectors by 2020 (compared to 2005 levels), with each Member State making a contribution according to its relative wealth. Member States are then left to decide on national targets and policies to achieve these targets.

Table 2 – Effort sharing targets of European Member States by 2020, European Commission
T2K partner country Effort sharing target by 2020, on 2005 levels
Belgium -15%
France -14%
Germany -14%
Netherlands -16%
UK -16%

At the regional and local levels, many conurbations (cities or regions) have also developed climate change strategies and adopted GHG reduction targets. Most have however adopted area-wide targets, with only a few adopting a breakdown of targets per sector (including the transport sector).

3  EU leaders have previously made a challenging unilateral commitment that, by 2020, Europe will cut its emissions by at least 20% (over 1990 levels), source 20% of its energy consumption from renewable sources, and achieve a 20% reduction in primary energy use by improving energy efficiency.