Whole of Europe must do more to align with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C target

New scientific report presents technically feasible, 1.5°C compatible energy and emissions pathways for the group of 46 countries that make up the whole of Europe.

The modelling work of Climate Analytics started with analysing global 1.5 pathways which were than downscaled to the EU 27 and the whole Council of Europe region, comprising 46 countries. Global action remains insufficient to meet the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal. Increasing the ambition of the 2030 climate targets and accelerating emission reductions in this decade are essential. The report1 presents technically feasible, 1.5°C compatible energy and emissions pathways for the group of countries that make up the Council of Europe (CoE), and assesses whether CoE member states’ current 2030 climate targets (the Nationally Determined Contributions, NDCs) are collectively aligned with limiting warming to 1.5°C.

The report finds that, to be 1.5°C compatible, Council of Europe member states would need to cut their domestic emissions faster than currently planned. Pathways compatible with 1.5°C and filtered to meet sustainability constraints were analysed in this report. These pathways show that countries within the Council of Europe can feasibly:

  • Reduce their collective greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions between 63 and 68% below 1990 levels excluding land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF). Assuming the minimum LULUCF sink within the CoE region, this corresponds to a 68–73% reduction by 2030, relative to 1990 levels.
  • Reach net-zero GHG emissions between 2041 and 2054.
  • Limit their total cumulative CO₂ emissions to 27–35 Gt CO₂ from 2020 until mid-century (incl. LULUCF).

If each CoE member state achieved its current individual 2030 NDC target, the total mitigation effect would be a 44% reduction of emissions below 1990 levels. The analysis therefore suggests that the current 2030 mitigation ambition of the Council of Europe region cannot be seen as compatible with 1.5°C. There is an emissions gap of 1457–1746 Mt CO₂e in 2030 between the CoE member states’ aggregated NDCs and 1.5°C compatible domestic pathways.

The report also demonstrates how CoE member states could achieve these 1.5°C compatible benchmarks through a rapid transition to an efficient energy system powered by renewable energy sources (see figure). It focuses on three illustrative pathways, the HighRE, SSP1 and SusDev scenarios. All three are downscaled versions of Integrated Assessment Model (IAM) pathways taken from the IPCC’s latest assessment report (AR6). They represent different possible 1.5°C compatible futures: the HighRE scenario focuses on renewables deployment and electrification, the SSP1 scenario represents a world in which there are broader shifts towards a more sustainable and equitable society, and the SusDev scenario explicitly focuses on meeting the sustainable development goals alongside the 1.5°C goal. This diversity of pathways improves the robustness of the report’s results.

In the analysed pathways, electricity provides 57–66% of final energy in 2050. There are also strong and sustained reductions in final energy demand, which means that by 2050, total energy demand in the CoE region can be up to 45% lower than in 2019. Overall, renewables provide 39–46% of final energy demand in 2030, rising to 82–91% by 2050.

Fossil fuels are rapidly displaced from the energy system in 1.5°C compatible pathways for the CoE area. In the most ambitious pathways, coal is phased out of the energy system by 2030, and fossil gas by 2050 at the latest. Although residual oil demand remains in 2050, this is concentrated in non-energy demand in the transport, industry and aviation sectors.

Synthetic fuels and feedstocks (which are not represented in the illustrative pathways) could further reduce oil consumption in these sectors.
There is a particularly strong effect in the power sector, where rapid deployment of wind and solar is the cornerstone of the energy transition. Key milestones for the power sector in these illustrative pathways include:

  • Coal phased out of power generation by 2030 and fossil gas by the mid-2030s
  • A 99% fossil-fuel-free electricity mix by 2035
  • Electricity generation more than doubling by 2050

In addition to strengthening domestic climate action, rich member states of the CoE (e.g., the EU27, United Kingdom, and Switzerland, among others) also have an obligation, under the fair share and equity considerations embedded in the Paris Agreement, to assist less wealthy countries to accelerate sustainable economic development and take climate action. Without such assistance, the global effort required to limit warming to 1.5°C could be distributed unfairly and will likely not be enough.

It is clear that member states of the CoE can do more to align with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C target and provide global leadership on the climate crisis. By providing updated NDCs that collectively cut emissions by at least 68% (including LULUCF) by 2030, by committing to fossil-free electricity by the mid-2030s, and by rapidly reducing demand for fossil fuels, CoE countries can drive ambitious climate action and help keep 1.5°C alive.

Neil Grant, Ryan Wilson, Aman Majid, Lara Welder, Jonas Hörsch, Claire Fyson & Bill Hare

11.5°C Pathways for the Council of Europe: accelerating climate action to deliver the Paris Agreement, September 2022, by Climate Analytics for AirClim. Link: https://www.airclim.org/publications/15%C2%B0c-pathways-council-europe-a...

1.5°C pathways for Europe

The science is more than clear: We need to cut greenhouse gas emissions immediately to respect the Paris Agreement’s objective of limiting global temperature increase to 1.5°C. But how exactly should the European Union and its member states contribute to this objective?
For a quick overview of what the 1.5°C objective means for the EU, please check our short video.

In our project ‘1.5°C pathways for Europe’, together with professional climate modellers from the renowned institute Climate Analytics, we develop 1.5°C compatible scenarios. By uniting researchers and NGOs, we use the latest evidence from science that it is possible for the EU to cut its emissions by at least 65% by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2040.

The scenario in Climate Analytics’ 1.5°C pathways for Europe report builds on the key assumptions of CAN Europe’s previously published Paris Agreement Compatible (PAC) energy scenario.

What does it mean at the national level?
Together with our national member organisations from nine EU countries, we have also translated the EU-wide 1.5°C pathway into country-specific 1.5°C pathways. Nine country fact sheets summarise the findings and illustrate the feasibility of quick emission reductions with details for the countries’ energy, electricity and industry sectors.

In September 2022, we published an updated EU report by

Climate Analytics integrating recently published Integrated Assessment Models from the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report.

Figure. Domestic 1.5°C compatible GHG emissions for the CoE region, compared to the expected pathway under the current aggregated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of CoE member states. The CoE’s combined NDCs do not currently align with 1.5°C, as assessed in this report. These emissions pathways do not include LULUCF emissions, which could enable all CoE member countries to reach net-zero GHG emissions by as early as 2041. Historical data from PRIMAP (Gütschow, Günther, and Pflüger 2021).

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