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Tackling climate change
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing mankind in the coming years. Rising temperatures, melting glaciers and increasingly frequent droughts and flooding are all evidence that climate change is really happening. The risks for the whole planet and for future generations are colossal and we need to take urgent action.
For several years now the European Union has been committed to tackling climate change both internally and internationally and has placed it high on the EU agenda, as reflected in European climate change policy. Indeed, the EU is taking action to curb greenhouse gas emissions in all its areas of activity in a bid to achieve the following objectives: consuming less-polluting energy more efficiently, creating cleaner and more balanced transport options, making companies more environmentally responsible without compromising their competitiveness, ensuring environmentally friendly land-use planning and agriculture and creating conditions conducive to research and innovation.
EU CLIMATE CHANGE POLICY
A realistic long-term policy framework
Following on from work under the European Climate Change Programme (ECCP), the European Union has come up with a realistic climate change strategy, advocating practical action to prevent temperatures from increasing to more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as priority objective
Reducing greenhouse gases is a key component of European action. The EU has a monitoring mechanism in place to keep regular track of emissions and the absorption of these gases. With a view to gradually reducing emissions the EU has also established a system based on market rules, a greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme and specific rules on fluorinated greenhouse gases.
Monitoring and adapting to the inevitable consequences of climate change
We are already feeling the effects of climate change. The extent of these effects can be measured thanks to the GMES monitoring system, while a number of European measures provide for an emergency response. These include, in particular, the Community Civil Protection Mechanism and specific measures concerning floods and droughts. In 2007, the Commission adopted a Green Paper on adapting to climate change in Europe.
The Kyoto Protocol and the EU's commitment in international negotiations
In the international arena, the EU is at the very forefront of the fight against climate change and takes an active part in negotiations on the subject. The EU signed up in 1998 to the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which deals with six greenhouse gases. Moreover, to help developing countries meet the challenge of climate change, the EU has adopted a strategy on climate change in the context of development cooperation.
- A realistic long-term policy framework
LESS POLLUTING, MORE EFFICIENT ENERGY
Focusing the energy market on security and sustainability of supply
With a package of measures adopted in 2007, the EU laid the foundations for a genuine common energy policy. This series of measures also focuses the energy market more on sustainability, particularly by means of tax measures.
Controlling and rationalising energy consumption thanks to energy efficiency
The EU has launched a large-scale consultation based on a Green Paper and has adopted an Action Plan for 2007-2010 to make energy efficiency and energy saving a key component of European energy policy. It has also adopted specific measures, in particular on energy efficiency and the labelling of energy-using products.
Making renewable energy a genuine and affordable alternative
A total of 20% of European energy consumption to be met from renewable sources by 2020: this is the target the EU set itself in 2007. To achieve this objective the EU has adopted measures aimed at promoting renewable energy sources and developing the markets in the biomass and biofuel sectors, among others.
- Focusing the energy market on security and sustainability of supply
CLEANER BETTER-BALANCED TRANSPORT
Achieving transport policy objectives
The ambitious revitalisation of EU transport policy, through the White Paper adopted in 2001, will make a significant contribution towards reducing the impact of transport on climate change. Achieving this objective will require, in particular, better management of freight transport and the harnessing of technology.
Reconciling road and air transport with the environment
The EU has adopted a wide range of measures to reduce the impact of road and air transport, including measures reducing levels of polluting emissions, traffic management measures and tax measures.
Promoting transport by rail and waterways and intermodality
To improve the balance between transport modes and to promote less polluting means of transport, the EU supports the development of measures to promote rail, maritime and waterway transport and to join up different modes of transport (intermodality).
- Achieving transport policy objectives
COMPETITIVE, RESPONSIBLE COMPANIES
Companies are obliged to take into consideration – and reduce – the impact of their activities on the environment (according to the “polluter pays” principle). A number of environmental management instruments are available to assist them in this.
AGRICULTURE AND LAND-USE PLANNING TO BENEFIT THE ENVIRONMENT
Man-made greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by proper land and land-use management, including, among other things, carbon storage and the promotion of low-emission activities.
ADAPTED FRAMEWORK FOR INNOVATION
The EU has set up a raft of direct and indirect financial assistance packages, particularly to support innovative projects and technological development.