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Activities of the European Union - Climate action
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It's a proven fact that our climate is changing. We can see it happening in Europe and elsewhere, where temperatures are increasing, rainfall patterns changing, glaciers melting and sea levels rising. More frequent droughts and floods are also taking their toll worldwide.


Limiting damage

Hiker on glacier © Digital Vision/Karl Weatherly

Hiker on glacier.

Human activity has accelerated climate change, but it's never too late to slow down the process. The EU is working hard to cut its member countries' greenhouse gas emissions and get others to do the same. It's also developing a strategy for dealing with the impact of climate change.

One goal, lots of actions!

EU leaders have agreed a set of targets, to be met by 2020, that have come to be known as the "20-20-20 targets". These aim to:

  • reduce EU greenhouse gas emissions to at least 20% below 1990 levels
  • increase to 20% the proportion of EU energy consumption coming from renewable sources
  • reduce the amount of primary energy used – through energy efficiency - by 20% compared with projected levels.

The EU has even offered to reduce its emissions by 30% if other major economies commit to comparable emission reductions or adequate contributions. Negotiations on this are ongoing within the framework of the United Nations.

In "A roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050", the European Commission also looked at new ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 95% by the middle of the century.

EU Emissions Trading System: helping industry reduce emissions

This is the cornerstone of the EU’s climate change strategy, and is gradually bringing down emissions from industry in the most cost-effective way possible.

Under the system, energy-intensive industries like power generation or steel and cement have to surrender allowances every year for every tonne of CO2 they emit. In principle, they receive a certain amount of allowances for free, but if they need more, they must buy them on the carbon market. They can also offset emissions by investing in CO2 reductions in developing countries.

Since EU ETS started in 2005, more and more businesses have joined. Airlines will be part of the system as from 2012. In the future, more allowances will be auctioned instead of allocated for free.

Preparing for the consequences of climate change

While it's still possible to slow down climate change, it can't be stopped completely. We therefore need to adapt if we are to prevent or minimise damage. Actions range from modifying building regulations so as to take account of future climate conditions, to building flood defences and developing drought-tolerant crops.


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Last update: 16/10/2012  |Top