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Flaws in the way EU Member States forecast greenhouse gas emissions mean Europe is actually cutting CO2 faster than previously thought. Our forecast using actual data reveals the EU is on track for 30% emission cuts by 2020. This means the EU can easily raise its ambition at COP21 in Paris.

Puffer fishSandbag’s new analysis reveals that Member State forecasts for both 2014 and 2015 are significantly above actual emission levels. If real emissions are used, the trajectory of European emissions changes significantly. The EU is not on track for emission cuts of 25% by 2020, as the EEA estimates. Instead, EU emissions will be 30% below 1990 levels by the end of this decade. In 2014 EU emissions already reached minus 23% compared to 1990.

Sandbag’s new data only covers emissions in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). If emissions in the non-traded sector are equally miscalculated (as seems likely, given the modelling is equivalent) the EU is on track for an emissions fall even greater than 30% by 2020.

In the full briefing, Sandbag shows:

  1. The Member State forecasts are structurally flawed. Even 2014 is over-estimated by 5.1%, and it is likely that 2015 will be over-estimated by a similar magnitude.

  2. Forecasts to 2020 do not mirror reality.  Member States in aggregate forecast that ETS emissions will fall only 0.8% per year, from 2014 actual emissions.  This seems highly implausible, given the tightening restrictions on coal, increase in renewable electricity and fall in electricity consumption.

  3. By 2020 ETS emissions will be down -38% relative to the scheme’s 2005 baseline.* The scheme’s 2030 target of -42% then barely amounts to half a percentage point year-on-year decrease over the next decade.

Dave Jones, Energy Analyst at Sandbag, commented:

“With the Paris UNFCCC talks starting imminently it is important that the EU is aware of the degree to which current emissions projections in the EU are out of step with reality.

Member State modellers have shown a consistent inability to correctly forecast falling emissions. The fall in electricity consumption in advanced economies, coupled with tightening restrictions on coal and the growth in renewables, has surprised many analysts, but corrections to the models have been slow coming.”

“The knowledge that the EU will likely go past 30% emissions reductions by 2020 creates room for negotiators to take on a more realistic target for 2020 and 2030. This could help to close the gap that exists between the INDCs being discussed in Paris and the emissions reductions needed to stay within the 2 degree global goal.”

EU28 MS forecasts
Half of all Member States (14 countries out of the EU28) forecast 2020 ETS emissions higher than their 2014 actuals, despite the trend firmly in the opposite direction

*These ETS figures exclude the aviation ETS.