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40% EU emissions reduction would cost just 0.7% of economic activity



Adopting a more ambitious EU greenhouse gas emission reduction target would sacrifice only a small fraction of economic activity, a new study has found.

The EU’s current target is to cut emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020, but scientists have questioned whether such a reduction was sufficient to meet the longer-term target of an 80% reduction by 2050.

The new study, undertaken by 12 research groups and led by a team from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, suggests that that ramping up that target to 40% by 2030 would cost less than an additional 0.7% of economic activity.

The study says that this is largely because a 40% cut could be managed with existing technologies, including renewables and nuclear power.

Brigitte Knopf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research argued that such targets must be introduced over the next two decades in order to encourage investment in the new technologies that will be needed to maintain decarbonisation in the mid-century.

“A clear price signal has to be set today, for instance in the European Emissions Trading System”, she said.

“It would provide an incentive for innovation that would prevent energy systems from being locked into long-lasting investments in CO2-intensive technologies, such as coal-fired power plants.”

The findings come as the European commission prepares to announce next week whether it will scale up its decarbonisation efforts for the next decade.

“By setting targets for 2030, the EU would signal its willingness to contribute to the global climate mitigation effort”, said Enrica De Cian of the Euro-Mediterranean Centre on Climate Change, one of the scientists who worked on the new report.

She added, “A positive reaction of other countries to this signal could foster technological change and innovation within Europe as well.” 

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