Auditors tell Commission to better plan emissions cuts

The European Commission’s greenhouse gas reduction plans for the forestry and shipping sectors are too vague, the European Court of Auditors warned on Wednesday in a report that otherwise gave a positive appraisal of its emissions inventory and reporting.

Forestry: emissions reduction plans 'too vague' (Photo by: Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images) Forestry: emissions reduction plans 'too vague' (Photo by: Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Current EU emissions reduction goals, measured against a 1990 baseline, are 20% by 2020, 40% by 2030 and 80-95% by 2050, although there has been growing pressure since the signing of the 2015 Paris Agreement to increase the latter targets.

To assess progress towards meeting these goals, the Commission needs “estimates of past and projected emissions, and of the effects of policies and measures aimed at reducing emissions”, the ECA said.

The auditors note that for targeted 2020 reduction in annual greenhouse gas output the EU has set targets which include most of the reported data, including international aviation.

“However, the first targets are set for 2030 for the LULUCF [land use, land use change and forestry] sector, and 2050 for international shipping, without any EU intermediate targets or reduction measures,” the report states.

“The Commission strives to provide accurate data about emission levels,” said the ECA member responsible for the report, Nikolaos Milionis. “Now it should further improve information on trends and estimates of policy impacts.”

In its response to the ECA’s findings, included in an appendix to the report, the Commission notes that the more recent ‘Clean Planet for All’ communication – setting out the executive’s preferred goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, still blocked by a trio of national governments – covers “all sectors, including LULUCF and agriculture”.

The EU executive noted that, with the European Environment Agency, it publishes annual climate action progress reports, but said the complexity of EU climate policy means “aggregated data per EU policy as implemented by member states often cannot be compiled in a useful way at the EU level”.

Carbon dioxide accounts for 82% of the greenhouse effect of gases emitted in the EU in 2017, the ECA notes in its report. The more potent methane – the main component of natural gas and also produced in the agricultural sector – accounts for 10% (measured in terms of ‘CO2 equivalent’), nitrous oxide 5%, with HFCs contributing 2.35%.

Follow up: ECA report.

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