The European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change – the independent body providing the European Union with scientific knowledge, expertise and advice on climate change, issued a report titled “Scientific advice for the determination of an EU-wide 2040 climate target and a greenhouse gas budget for 2030–2050”.
The report is a result of a comprehensive assessment of the latest available scientifically based greenhouse gas emissions scenarios for achieving climate neutrality in the EU by 2050 and aims to give recommendations on climate targets and scenarios consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
What stands out is the recommendation of keeping the EU greenhouse gas emissions budget within a limit of 11 to 14 Gt CO2e between 2030 and 2050. That can be achieved by reducing emissions by 90-95% by 2040, compared to 1990.
The 2040 target and 2030-2050 budget can be realized by continuing with the current 55% reduction target by 2030. According to the report, additional short-term emission reductions would further decrease the EU’s contribution to global mitigation.
The European Scientific Advisory Board analyzed over 1000 EU emission pathways to identify scenarios that align with the objective of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. 36 scenarios were consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C which are recommended and outlined in the report.
Under the pathways, the power sector should reach near-to-zero emissions by 2040. In all scenarios, the power mix is predominantly based on renewable energy sources, in particular wind, solar and hydro (70-90% of the mix in 2040).
The report states that power generation should almost be completely free from coal by 2030 and from unabated gas-fired generation by 2040. Some pathways rely heavily on carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS). In the scenarios with a lower share of renewable energy, the share of nuclear reaches up to 20% of the final energy use in 2040. The share of electricity also increases twice its current levels in the final energy demand.
According to the report, the EU’s reliance on carbon removal by either novel carbon removal technologies or enhancement of the natural land sink is minimized but even in this case carbon removal at scale is still required in order to achieve climate neutrality.
The report also analyzes the numerous benefits of reducing reliance on fossil fuels like decreasing dependency on fossil fuel imports, increasing energy security, enhanced health and wellbeing of EU citizens through improved air quality, and reduction of water stress leading to better nature protection.
Realizing the benefits, however, requires careful planning at European, national and local levels, with inclusive decision-making and engagement with stakeholders.