We are doing science for policy
The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.
The EU has a stated objective of limiting global climate change to a temperature increase of 2ºC above preindustrial levels.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported in 2007 that reaching that target would require the reduction of global emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 75% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. In 2011 the European Commission adopted a Communication entitled “A Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050”. In support of this Communication, the JRC carries out modelling activities to assess the technological and economic effects of various scenarios designed to meet the 2°C target.
The JRC POLES (Prospective Outlook for the Long term Energy System) model is a global sectorial simulation model for the development of energy scenarios for 2050. It allows for the assessment of the EU's internal reductions by 2050 in line with the 2ºC objective.
Three scenarios are assessed:
The POLES model is being applied for projections of energy demand, supply and prices, analysis of CO2 emission reduction pathways, assessment of Global Climate Policy Scenarios for 2030 and beyond, and the impacts of technological change. Particular attention is paid to price effects.
Black carbon (BC) and ozone in the lower troposphere are pollutants that contribute to global warming and can have harmful impacts on human health and ecosystems. Emissions of black carbon and ozone precursors are expected to further increase in many regions of the world. For this reason, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) initiated a study to investigate which known and feasible emission control measures could provide an improvement in air quality while also reducing levels of global warming.
As a contribution to the ongoing UNEP-WMO study, the JRC applies the General Circulation Model (ECHAM5-HAMMOZ) to study how the implementation of the selected set of control measures influences the concentrations of black carbon and tropospheric ozone and their impact on climate.
Carbon capture and storage is considered to be one of the most promising technological options for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the power generation and heavy industries sectors, acting as a bridge between the current fossil fuel dependent economy and a future carbon-free economy. This will require the development of new infrastructures to transport the captured CO2 from its sources to the appropriate CO2 storage sites, such as a network of pipelines and shipping routes.
The JRC has developed a tool (InfraCCS) to describe the likely extent and cost of such a network at the European scale for the period 2015-2050. This tool has been used to provide input for the Commission Communication "Energy infrastructure priorities for 2020 and beyond: A blueprint for an integrated European energy network".
An estimated 15% of global GHG emissions can be traced back to tropical deforestation and the degradation of forests and peat. The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) initiative is a global incentive mechanism that aims to help reduce GHG emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
In support to the UNFCCC REDD+, the JRC is involved in developing internationally agreed methods for modelling and monitoring GHG emissions from deforestation in tropical countries.
The JRC provides scientific and technical support for UNFCCC activities regarding the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector and the Kyoto Protocol. It also evaluates the potential effects on climate of EU policies and directives including the National Emission Ceilings (NEC) Directive, the energy and climate package, LULUCF policies and the Biofuels Directive, using its forestry and atmosphere-biosphere models at global and regional scales.
To study the effects of emissions on climate and air pollution (including those resulting from deforestation), the JRC records emissions and maps atmospheric GHGs and other air pollutant trends via the online Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR), which it established in collaboration with the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL).
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimated that raising animals to produce meat, eggs or dairy products causes 14-18% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The average consumption of animal protein per capita in the EU is about twice the global average recommended in the World Health Organization guidelines. Furthermore, a big share of what is produced on EU agricultural land is required to feed the animals in European livestock production, compared to direct human use. The JRC has implemented a life-cycle impact assessment module in the CAPRI (Common Agricultural Policy Regional Impact) model and has carried out a detailed assessment of the crade-to-gate life cycle emissions of GHGs from the livestock sector in the EU-27 according to animal species, animal products and livestock systems to help better manage animal production in Europe.
The European energy strategy is strongly driven by the objectives of sustainability and security of energy supply. Implementation of renewable energy systems and improved energy efficiency are key means of satisfying these objectives. The JRC monitors the development and use of renewable energy sources and best practices in energy efficiency, and compares them with the European Union targets. The JRC develops methodologies to measure energy savings associated with specific policies and programmes and assesses the Member States' national action plans on energy efficiency.
The JRC is also active in specific technological areas where research and harmonisation is required such as the assessment of bioenergy resources and the environmental impact of cultivating energy crops. In a rapidly growing and increasingly competitive environment, the photovoltaic industry relies on the JRC's European Solar Test Installation (ESTI) for reference performance measurements to develop international testing standards that assure fair and transparent markets for new products.
The geographic frame of these activities is not restricted to Europe. In line with the United Nation´s strategies for increasing access to energy, the JRC works on the assessment of renewable energies potential in Africa, focusing on knowledge transfer to promote the use of renewable energy in rural electrification.
The Transport White Paper adopted by the Commission in March 2011 has set very ambitious objectives for cutting GHG emissions from transport, with a goal of a cut of 60% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. Road transport emits 71% of all transport-related GHGs.
The studies performed by the JRC aim to predict real-world fuel consumption values based on vehicle specifications and actual driving conditions, and to assess the actual impact of European CO2-reduction initiatives.
Important work is being carried out by the JRC to provide support to the European Commission’s decision to monitor CO2 emissions from the heavy duty vehicles sector. These activities include the development of vehicle simulation models and carrying out extensive experimental activities in order to formulate a robust and accurate emissions calculation protocol. A new methodology for the accurate monitoring of Heavy Duty Vehicle CO2 emissions is now being developed with the help of the JRC.
CO2 emissions from international maritime transport are estimated to account for 3-5% of total global CO2 emissions, and are expected to increase. The current policy actions dealing with emissions from international maritime transport relate mainly to the fuel used and to the technological options available. Market-based instruments such as emissions trading schemes are being discussed at international level within the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
The JRC analyses the methodological issues regarding the assessment of the impacts of the maritime sector on the environment, and provides detailed assessments of the cost efficiency and abatement potential of a range of technological options to reduce carbon emissions and air pollution from maritime transport.