The European Commission established the ECCP in 2000 to help identify the most environmentally effective and most cost-effective policies and measures that can be taken at European level to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The immediate goal was to help ensure that the EU meets its target for reducing emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. This requires the countries that were EU members before 2004 to cut their combined emissions of greenhouse gases to 8% below the 1990 level by 2012.
The ECCP builds on existing emissions-related activities at EU level, for instance in the field of renewable energy and energy demand management. It also dovetails with the EU’s Sixth Environmental Action Programme (2002-2012), which forms the strategic framework for EU environmental action and includes climate change among its four top priorities, as well as the EU’s Sustainable Development Strategy.
The ECCP is a multi-stakeholder consultative process that has brought together all relevant players, such as the Commission, national experts, industry and the NGO community.
Stakeholder involvement is an essential element of the ECCP because it enables the programme to draw on a broad spectrum of expertise and helps to build consensus, thereby facilitating the implementation of the resulting policies and measures.
The first ECCP (2000-2004) examined an extensive range of policy sectors and instruments with potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Coordinated by an ECCP Steering Committee, 11 working groups were established covering the following areas:
Each working group identified options and potential for reducing emissions based on cost-effectiveness. The impact on other policy areas was also taken into account, including ancillary benefits, for instance in terms of energy security and air quality.
For example, one of the most important and innovative initiatives that have resulted from the first ECCP is the EU Emissions Trading System, which covers carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from some 11,500 heavy emitters in the power generation and manufacturing sectors.