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EU climate policy

Denmark's efforts as to climate are closely connected to what is agreed on on EU level. The target of the EU is a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 40 % by 2030.

The EU set general targets for the reduction of the emission of greenhouse gases. The essential tools are the EU quota trading system that covers emission from energy and industry as well as national reduction targets of sectors outside the quota trading system such as e.g. agriculture and transport. Furthermore, the EU has set targets as to renewable energy and energy efficiency and pan-European regulation in several fields.


2020 Target: EU reduction of greenhouse emission by 20 %

The EU has decided that the total European greenhouse emission shall be reduced by 20 % by 2020 as compared to 1990. The reduction will to a high degree be made by means of the EU quota trading system that includes the most energy-intensive businesses in the EU and covers 40 % of the total emission within the EU. Other reductions should be obtained in the non-quota sectors outside the quota trading system. These are sectors such as transport, agriculture, individual heating of buildings, waste incineration and handling of disposal sites and waste water and other less important emission sources.


2030 Target: EU reduction of greenhouse emission by 40 %

The European Council decided in 2014 that the EU emission of greenhouse gas should be at least 40 % less by 2030 compared to 1990. The target is broken down by the EU target for the quota sector of 43 % and an EU target of 30 % for the non-quota sectors. In the years to come, the 2030 frame should result in specific EU legislation:

  • A revision of the quota trading directive (the ETS sector).

  • A new burden sharing agreement for the non-quota trading sectors and integration of emissions and terrestrial sinks (LULUCF).

Revised policy regulation of the transport sector.

Read more in the EU 2030 framework of the climate and energy policy that defines the climate effort in the period 2021-2030.


EU’s CO2 quota trading system

The EU quota trading system covers emissions of energy in the production of electricity, district heating, big industrial plants, oil and gas production and aviation in a pan-European regulation. The quota trading system caps the amount of accepted CO2 emission and still makes it possible to trade CO2 quotas.

The regulation became effective in 2005 and is officially called the” European Union Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading System”. It is now in its third period, running from 2013 to 2020. The arrangement is under constant development and in the third period there has been a further standardisation meaning that all countries administer in accordance with common EU rules.

The EU Council of Ministers and the EU parliaments are now in the process of negotiating a revision of the Directive on quota trading to cover the period 2021-2030.

Read more about the EU Commission's proposal for a revision of the Directive on quota trading


Reduction of greenhouse gas from non-quota sectors

Greenhouse emission from sectors that are not comprised by the quota trading system is regulated by means of a burden sharing among the EU member states. For Denmark, this is about emission from transport, agriculture and buildings with individual heating.A burden sharing agreement sets the frames as to how to share the reductions among the member states and is grounded on an allocation principle based on i.a. the GDP of the countries. How to reach the target is up to each individual country.Denmark has accepted a reduction target of 20 % by 2020 as compared to 2005. For the years 2013-2019 there are annual sub-targets that form a so-called "reduction path" leading up to the 2020 target.

On 20 July, the EU Commission presented its proposal for a new burden sharing agreement to cover the period 2021-2030. The EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament are now in the process of negotiating the agreement.

Per the Commission's proposition national targets of non-quota emissions of 0-40 % as compared to 2005 will be imposed upon each member state. A reduction target of 39 % by 2030 compared to 2005 is imposed upon Denmark.

The proposition will prepare the ground for a continuation of the existing mechanisms of flexibility.

  • Unlimited access to purchase of emission rights of other member states.

  • Unlimited access to purchase of EU internal project credits.

Furthermore, two flexibility mechanisms are introduced:

  • use of quotas from the EU quota trading system

  • including so-called "LULUCF credits" from improved terrestrial carbon balance.

Emissions and terrestrial removals

Emissions and terrestrial removals (LULUCF) will not be included in the EU climate regulation up to 2021. The EU Commission has, however, presented a proposal for integration of LULUCF in the EU climate regulation for the period 2021-2030. The objective is to establish a policy as to inclusion of use of land, changes in use of land and forests in the EU climate regulation.

The Commission proposes the member states, during the period, to ensure that the terrestrial carbon balance is not deteriorated because of increased emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It also prepares the ground for member states that achieve a positive development of the carbon balance to set the LULUCF credits off against their reduction objective of emission of greenhouse gases in non-quota sectors.

Climate regulation of the transport sector within the EU 

EU has adopted binding targets to ensure that car manufacturers reduce the average CO2 emission from cars to 95 g CO2/km by 2020 corresponding to about 28 km/l for a diesel car and about 25 km/l for a gasoline-powered car. This means that you are well on the way of almost halving the CO2 emission a km of cars from 2000 to 2020. EU requirements to car manufacturers mean that new cars will be even more energy efficient in the future.

The Directive on promotion of renewable energy (the VE directive) comprises a binding objective for each member state as to the share of renewable energy in the transport sector of 10 % by 2020. Apart from using biofuels the target can be met also by using for example electric and hybrid vehicles.

The directive includes a series of criteria of sustainability for biofuels, which will be valid whether biofuels are produced in or outside the EU. The criteria of sustainability include requirements to the effect that at the beginning biofuels shall replace at least 35 % CO2 increasing to at least 50 % by 2017 and furthermore up to at least 60% of biofuels produced in plants established later than 2017.

European strategy for low carbon emission mobility

On 20 July 2016, the Commission issued an announcement about a European strategy of low carbon emission mobility, which is part of the Commission's package dealing with the reduction of CO2 emission in the parts of the economy that are comprised by the non-quota sector (including transport). The strategy lists the initiatives that the Commission intends to implement to assist the transport sector in reducing its CO2 emission.

In July 2016, the Commission presented a statement with a strategy for reduction of greenhouse emission in the transport sector. Such initiative could be a continuation of instruments and means that have already proved to be efficient. For instance, a prolongation after 2020 of the requirements of the Directive on fuel quality as to emission reduction and a revision of the requirements as to CO2 of the regulations for cars and trucks that can limit the energy consumption of cars.




Mads Libergren

Special Consultant
EU Office

Stig Kjeldsen

Special Consultant
EU Office