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Climate Action

Benefits of climate action

Building a climate-friendly, low-carbon society and economy is a big challenge, but also a huge opportunity. Many of the necessary technologies exist already. The real challenge is to apply them.

Main benefits:

  • new jobs and 'green' jobs
  • improved competitiveness
  • economic growth
  • cleaner air and more efficient public transport systems in cities
  • new technologies such as electric or plug-in hybrid cars, energy-efficient homes or offices with intelligent heating and cooling systems
  • secure supplies of energy and other resources – less dependent on imports

Studies show that it is feasible and affordable. The costs of climate change for the economy and the society will be much higher than the costs of fighting climate change now.

More green jobs and lower costs

Investing in a low-carbon society and economy could create up to 1.5 million additional jobs by 2020.

The EU's green economy is likely to grow dramatically. There are already over 4 million jobs in companies working in areas such as pollution management and control, waste collection and treatment, renewable energy and recycling.

  • Reaching the 20% renewable energy target would bring over 400.000 new jobs.
  • Refurbishing buildings will provide big opportunities in the construction industry.
  • Full implementation of all EU waste legislation would save €72 billion a year, and create over 400.000 jobs by 2020.
  • More efficient use of resources will save businesses money and create jobs – savings of up to €23 billion a year and 150.000 extra jobs for every percentage-point increase in resource productivity.
  • More efficient processes would reduce costs for energy-intensive industries, boost their competitiveness and could enable them to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 80% by 2050.
  • The value of EU environmental goods and services is expected to double by 2020. They are currently valued at more than €1.000 billion a year, and account for around a third of the global market.

Cleaner transport

 The EU is aiming for a 60% cut in transport emissions by 2050 compared to 1990.

Under EU law, car manufacturers are required to make their cars more efficient – through new engines, materials and design.

EU governments have to make their transport and vehicle procurement systems more efficient and sustainable.

This should lead to:

  • More electric or plug-in hybrid cars on Europe's streets by 2020, with the appropriate number of recharging points accessible to the public in place (indicatively 1 per 10 cars)
  • More efficient public transport systems, for instance with buses running on alternative fuels

The overall aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and noise levels as well as congestion. As a result, there will be big savings in health costs and pollution control measures. Additionally, oil imports will be reduced, improving the EU’s energy supply security.


Europe is home to some of the most efficient public transport systems in the world.

Smart buildings and energy systems

The energy performance of buildings will be improved drastically:

  • By the end of 2020, all new buildings in the EU will have to be nearly zero-energy buildings.
  • Old buildings will be retrofitted – EU governments are committed to supporting cost-effective renovations.
  • State-of-the-art homes will not only save energy but even produce it.
  • Intelligent energy meters (smart meters) will give real-time feedback on energy usage and costs and send meter readings automatically to your energy supplier. By 2020, it is expected that almost 72% of European consumers would have a smart meter for electricity while 40% would have one for gas.

The control panel shows the energy use of each device in the house.

Secure supplies of energy and resources

 Energy will be produced more locally, mostly from renewable sources, instead of fossil fuels. Together with increasing energy savings through energy-efficient products and processes, the EU would halve oil and gas imports by 2050.

This means the EU would:

  • reduce its dependence on imported oil and gas and thus improve energy security
  • be less vulnerable to increasing oil prices
  • cut fuel import costs by around €175-320 billion annually in the period 2011 to 2050 or by €330 billion in 2050.

Europe depends heavily on imports of raw materials for its economy. Many are already in scarce supply. Recycling and recovery reduces the need for raw material. It has already emerged as a key industry to protect our environment, encourage innovation and boost our economy.


Recycling reduces the need for raw materials, many of which are already in scarce supply.

Building a low-carbon society

Interested in ideas for building a low-carbon society?