TOPIC 3: Latest prognosis for effects of climate change in Europe

TOPIC 3: Latest prognosis for effects of climate change in Europe

In this topic you will get an introduction of “climate-forcasts” related to future tendencies in the field, focusing on Europe.

Climate change is already impacting Europeans’ daily lives, in various forms, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. It is expected to lead to impacts such as

  • health problems and loss of life in heat waves
  • loss of agricultural production in drought events
  • damage to property and infrastructure in extreme weather events such as storms and floods
  • loss of biodiversity due to changing ecosystems
  • diseases spreading to northern latitudes because of higher temperatures
  • flooding of low-lying area due to sea level rise

All sectors of the economy will be affected. For example, tourist destinations may shift, with warmer winters shortening the winter sports season, and summer heat waves meaning that spring and autumn may become the preferred seasons for beach holidays. Studies show that the EU may lose up to €240 billion of economic output (1.9 % of today’s GDP) annually by the end of this century due to climate change, with large regional differences.

Transport is the only sector in which emissions are still higher than were in 1990. Transport is responsible for nearly 30% of the EU’s total CO2 emissions, of which 72% comes from road transport. Cars and vans produce about 15% of the EU’s CO2 emissions. With an average of 1.7 people per car in Europe, other modes of transport, such as buses, are currently a cleaner alternative. However, modern cars could be among the cleanest modes of transport if shared rather than being used for just one person.

International aviation and shipping each account for less than 3.5% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions, but have been the fastest growing source of emissions. Emissions from planes are projected to be up to 10 times higher in 2050 compared to 1990 while emissions from ships could increase by up to 50%.

The EU has been active in global climate action from the very beginning, starting with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. In 2005, the EU established the world’s first emission trading system (ETS) to put a price on GHG emissions. It is still the world’s largest and a key instrument for EU climate action. The EU ETS is part of a comprehensive climate and energy framework.

In November 2019, the Parliament declared a climate emergency asking the European Commission to adapt all its proposals in line with a 1.5 °C target for limiting global warming and ensure that greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced.

With the European Climate Law, the EU made climate neutrality by 2050 a legally binding goal, set an interim target of a net 55% emission reduction by 2030 and is working on setting the 2040 target.

The European Climate Law (Article 4) calls on the Commission to make a proposal to set an intermediate Unionwide climate target for 2040 with a view to achieving the climate neutrality objective by 2050 and to publish a report on the projected indicative GHG budget4 for 2030-2050.

This initiative aims at proposing the 2040 climate target, in view of an amendment to the European Climate Law.

The overarching framework for these is the European Green Deal, a roadmap for the EU to achieve sustainability by 2050.

Climate change and environmental degradation are an existential threat to Europe and the world. To overcome these challenges, the European Green Deal will transform the EU into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy, ensuring:

  • no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050
  • economic growth decoupled from resource use
  • no person and no place left behind

However, the collective commitments of the world’s nations under the Paris Agreement are still far from enough to keep temperatures below 2°C, let alone the 1.5°C degree ambition that would help counter the worst impacts of climate change, according to a landmark report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. EU climate policy therefore promotes more ambitious climate action around the world.

At the same time, the EU must protect its industries from unfair competition in countries that have less ambitious climate policies. This is achieved by giving free emission allowances to trade and emission intensive industries, and through a proposed carbon border adjustment mechanism that would put a higher price on products imported from countries that have less stringent climate policies.