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    Europe's Chances of Hitting Climate Goals Recede: Report


Wood MacKenzie looks beyond the EU rhetoric on climate change targets and finds gaps in the maths as well as the risk of popular discontent.

by: William Powell

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Europe's Chances of Hitting Climate Goals Recede: Report

Europe’s new 2030 emissions target of a 55% reduction over 1990 levels has made it the undisputed global leader in climate ambition, according to a Wood Mackenzie report published February 18. But dramatic changes are needed if the goals are to be hit: it foresees only a 40% cut. And policy-makers will have to make unpopular decisions to accelerate the change.

According to its own calculations, electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrids must reach 97% of the EU’s passenger vehicle sales by 2030. Wind and solar power generation capacity must grow by 162 GW and 253 GW, respectively, over 2020 levels – underpinned by rapid scaling of grid infrastructure.

Coal-plant retirements, of 85 GW by 2030, must be accelerated, alongside a carbon cost that maximises coal-to-gas switching. But even all those measures "only get[s] the EU to a 53% cut in emissions by 2030; it would take another two years to get to 55%."

It sees gas enjoying a bright future at least until 2030, with LNG accounting for 27% of the EU’s gas supply mix. Pressure to cut carbon and methane emissions will push LNG suppliers to reduce emissions from well to customer.

Wood Mackenzie research director Murray Douglas said that hitting the 2030 target means doing everything faster. And as renewables and EV penetration is limited, other areas will have to work harder. He identified energy efficiency and the electrification of buildings; reducing the amount of travel; and reforming the carbon market to include other industries such as shipping, as areas ripe for investigation.

“Certainty over the cost of carbon by 2030 would accelerate coal phase-out plans, as it did in the UK. Renewable generation would be more competitive, and the array of projects would expand. The rapidly growing pipeline of low-carbon hydrogen projects would be bolstered, and the market would become more engaged in the development of carbon capture and storage,” he said.

Wind, solar and storage and power grid capacity will require $585bn of investment by 2030, and demand will have to be able to respond to an "increasingly variable, weather-driven supply from renewable sources,” he said.  

He said that European policymakers will need to make difficult and, in many cases, unpopular decisions to deliver greater emissions reductions.