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European Programme on Climate Change

The European Union (EU) is at the forefront of the global action programme on climate change. The EU and all its member states are parties to the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. The EU is also a signatory to the Vienna Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layer and has implemented Regulation (EC) No 2037/2000 as amended which prohibits substances that deplete the ozone layer.

The EU played a major role in the development of the binding Kyoto Protocol emissions reduction targets and took the lead in trying to secure an ambitious new climate agreement in Copenhagen in December 2009.

European Climate Change Programme (ECCP)

In response to the Kyoto Protocol, the EU developed Europe-wide measures on climate change under the European Climate Change Programme (ECCP). The ECCP provided the basis for the formulation of directives, including:

a Directive setting up an emissions trading system (2003/87/EC) within the Community and amending Council Directive 96/61/EC.
The system, known as the EU ETS, works as a Europe-wide ‘cap and trade’ scheme. Each EU member state must develop a National Allocation Plan approved by the European Commission. This sets an overall cap on the total emissions allowed from the installations covered by the system – currently, electricity generation and energy-intensive industries such as power stations, refineries, iron, steel, cement, paper, food and drink. The cap is converted into allowances which are distributed by member states to installations. At the end of each year, installations must surrender allowances covering their actual emissions. Allowances have a market value and can be traded. This is intended to provide a financial incentive to reduce emissions, as an installation that emits less than its allocation can sell the allowances it no longer needs. The system was launched in 2005, and is now in its Third Phase (2013-2020).
a Directive establishing a scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community, in respect of the Kyoto Protocol's project mechanisms (2004/101/EC)
a Directive promoting cogeneration of heat and electricity (2004/8/EC)
a Directive on the promotion of renewable energy (2001/77/EC)
a Directive on the promotion of biofuels for transport (2003/30/EC)
a Directive on the energy performance of buildings (2002/91/EC)
a revised Directive on energy end-use efficiency and energy services (2006/32/EC)

The EU 2020 Climate and Energy Package

The EU 2020 Climate and Energy Package was agreed in December 2008. It covers the following measures aimed at achieving an EU-wide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 20% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2020:

  • a new Directive for Phase III of the emissions trading system which runs from 2013-2020 (2009/29/EC)
  • a greenhouse gas effort-sharing Decision setting targets for emissions reductions in sectors like residential and transport, that are not covered by the emissions trading system (406/2009/EC)
  • a new renewables Directive requiring member states to share the task of achieving the EU’s 20 percent renewables target by 2020 (2009/28/EC). The UK’s national target is for 15 percent of all energy to come from renewables. This Directive replaces the earlier directives on renewables and biofuels, mentioned above.
  • a Directive regulating carbon capture and storage (2009/31/EC). Carbon capture and storage is the process for capturing carbon dioxide from power plants and transferring it to geological sites where it can be stored safely

The European Parliament and leaders also committed in December 2008 to increase the 20% greenhouse gas reduction target to 30% in the context of an international climate agreement.

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