or the short term, the EU has put in place legislation to reduce its emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, and data show it is well on track to reach this target. Europe is also offering to step up this cut to 30% if other major economies agree to do their fair share of a global reduction effort.
Need for bigger climate efforts
With its Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050, the European Commission has looked beyond these short-term objectives and set out a cost-effective pathway for achieving much deeper emission cuts by the middle of the century. All major economies will need to make deep emission reductions if global warming is to be held below 2°C compared to the temperature in pre-industrial times.
The Roadmap is one of the long-term policy plans put forward under the Resource Efficient Europe flagship initiative intended to put the EU on course to using resources in a sustainable way.
The Roadmap suggests that, by 2050, the EU should cut its emissions to 80% below 1990 levels through domestic reductions alone. It sets out milestones which form a cost-effective pathway to this goal - reductions of the order of 40% by 2030 and 60% by 2040. It also shows how the main sectors responsible for Europe's emissions - power generation, industry, transport, buildings and construction, as well as agriculture - can make the transition to a low-carbon economy most cost-effectively.
Towards a low-carbon society
In a low-carbon society we will live and work in low-energy, low-emission buildings with intelligent heating and cooling systems. We will drive electric and hybrid cars and live in cleaner cities with less air pollution and better public transport.
Many of these technologies exist today but need to be developed further. Besides cutting the vast majority of its emissions, Europe could also reduce its use of key resources like oil and gas, raw materials, land and water.
Innovation, green growth & jobs
The transition to a low-carbon society would boost Europe's economy thanks to increased innovation and investment in clean technologies and low- or zero-carbon energy.
A low-carbon economy would have a much greater need for renewable sources of energy, energy-efficient building materials, hybrid and electric cars, 'smart grid' equipment, low-carbon power generation and carbon capture and storage technologies.
To make the transition the EU would need to invest an additional €270 billion or 1.5% of its GDP annually, on average, over the next four decades. The extra investment would take Europe back to the investment levels seen before the economic crisis, and would spur growth within a wide range of manufacturing sectors and environmental services.
Up to 1.5 million additional jobs could be created by 2020 if governments used revenues from CO2 taxes and from auctioning of emission allowances to reduce labour costs.
Saving energy and resources
Energy efficiency will be a key driver of the transition. By moving to a low-carbon society, the EU could be using around 30% less energy in 2050 than in 2005. Households and businesses would enjoy more secure and efficient energy services.
More locally produced energy would be used, mostly from renewable sources. As a result, the EU would be less dependent on expensive imports of oil and gas and less vulnerable to increases in oil prices. On average, the EU could save € 175-320 billion annually in fuel costs over the next 40 years.
Greater use of clean technologies and electric cars will drastically reduce air pollution in European cities. Fewer people would suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases; considerably less money would need to be spent on health care and on equipment to control air pollution. By 2050, the EU could save up to €88 billion a year in these areas.