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Seventh national communication and third biennial report from the European Union under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - Required under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol

European Commission



Executive summary.
Introduction ▹ The European Union (EU) and its Member States, both jointly and individually, have engaged in domestic and international action on climate change for a number of years and this has resulted in significant emission reductions. The staff working documents accompanying this report constitute the EU’s seventh national communication as required under Article 12 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Article 7 of the Kyoto Protocol, and its third biennial report as required under Decision 2/CP.17 of the Conference of the Parties under the UNFCCC. This report is an executive summary of those documents.
National circumstances ▹ The EU comprises 28 Member States, with a total population of 510 million. Over the last 26 years, the population in the 28 Member States has grown on average by 0.3 % a year. Total energy consumption grew between 1990 and 2006 (by around 0.5 % a year), but since then it has generally declined; in 2015, it was back to 1990 levels. The trend observed since 1990, of a shift in the primary fuel mix from coal to gas, has slowed in recent years. There has been an increasing shift to renewables, with their share rising from 4 % in 1990 to 13 % in 2015, largely driven by an increase in biomass consumption. Production of energy from solar photovoltaics and wind also increased very substantially over the period.
Greenhouse gas inventory ▹ Emissions included in this executive summary are those relevant to the EU target under the Convention and the data are taken from the latest submission of the EU inventory to the UNFCCC. Total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the EU, excluding emissions and removals from land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) but including emissions from international aviation, decreased by around 22 % between 1990 and 2015, and by 23% between 1990 and 2016. The most prevalent GHG by far is CO2, which accounted for 81.8 % of total EU emissions in 2015, excluding LULUCF. The energy sector accounted for most of the EU’s GHG emissions in 2015 (77.9 %), followed by agriculture (10.1 %) and industrial processes and product use (8.7 %). Per capita emissions dropped by 28.7 % between 1990 and 2015, from 11.9 t to 8.5 t. The ratio of GHG emissions to GDP also fell considerably, thanks to steady progress since 1990 on decoupling economic activity from GHG emissions.
Policies and measures ▹ Under the UNFCCC, the EU and its Member States have taken a joint emission reduction target to reduce its GHG emissions by at least 20% compared to 1990 by 2020, with a conditional offer to move to a 30% reduction, provided that other developed countries commit themselves to comparable emission reductions and developing countries contribute adequately according to their responsibilities and respective capabilities. The EU target is enshrined in legislation, and is being implemented by the EU and its Member States. At the heart of this legislation, the EU Climate and Energy package sets for the Union a 20% GHG emission reduction target by 2020 compared to 1990, which is equivalent to -14% compared to 2005. This effort has been divided between the sectors covered by the EU Emission Trading System (EU ETS) and non-ETS sectors under the Effort Sharing Decision (ESD). The EU has agreed that at least 20 % of its budget for 2014-2020 – as much as €180 billion − should be spent on climate change-related action. To achieve this increase, mitigation and adaptation actions are integrated into all major EU spending programmes. By current estimates, this target has been exceeded in 2016 and spending will remain close to it over 2017-2020. Since the last national communication and biennial report, the EU and its Member States have continued to strengthen legislation to enable GHG reductions and the transition to a low-carbon economy. Key policy developments include developments to the EU ETS, new legislative instruments for emissions in the ‘non-traded’ sectors, and proposed amendments to renewable energy and energy efficiency policies.
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Projections ▹ The latest available GHG projections, as reported by Member States show that the EU is on track to achieving its 2020 target. Under the ‘with existing measures’ (WEM) scenario, total GHG emissions (including international aviation) are projected to be 26 % lower in 2020 than in 1990 and 30 % lower in 2030. Under the ‘with additional measures’ (WAM) scenario, projected GHG emissions are 27 % lower in 2020 and 32 % lower in 2030 than 1990. It is projected that the most significant sectoral contribution in absolute GHG emission reductions from 1990 to 2020 will come from the energy sector (without transport), with emissions down by 36.5 % in 2020 and 41.8 % in 2030 under the WEM scenario, and by 37.1 % in 2020 and 44.0 % in 2030 under the WAM scenario. The energy sector is followed by agriculture, industry and the waste sector. The transport sector is the only sector where emissions would still be higher in 2030 relative to 1990, due to high emissions growth during the 90s. GHG emissions from the sector are projected to be 13.8 % higher than 1990 levels in 2020 and 13.4 % higher in 2030 under the WEM scenario, and 12.7 % and 9.9 % higher in 2020 and 2030 respectively under the WAM scenario. Reductions in CO2 emissions are expected to contribute most to overall emission reductions in the EU. In the two scenarios, CO2 reductions account for slightly over 80 % of the total between 2015 and 2020, followed by CH4 (around 10 %) and N2O (around 6 %). Total estimated GHG reductions amount to 560 Mt CO2-eq in 2020 under the WEM and 600 Mt CO2-eq under the WAM scenario.
Impacts, vulnerability and adaptation ▹ The EU recognises that some climate change impacts are unavoidable due to past emissions. It is investing in work to understand climate change impacts and is taking action to reduce vulnerability and adapt to a changing climate. Since the last national communication, the EU has continued to strengthen the evidence base that supports decision-making on climate change adaptation and has stepped up its efforts to improve climate resilience in Europe. It is also strengthening cooperation with developing countries on adaptation. Notable actions include: Mainstreaming adaptation into EU instruments such as regional development and the CAP. Dedicated instruments, such as: financial support for climate change adaptation projects in EU Member States through the LIFE programme; inclusion of the reports from Member States of their adaptation activities into the country pages of Climate-ADAPT; the fourth ‘Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe report’, which considers past and projected climate change’s impacts on ecosystems and society; and the fourth macro-regional strategy (MRS) in the EU being published for the Alpine region. Member States have made good progress as a result of this action. In all, 23 had adopted adaptation strategies by 2017 (compared to 15 in 2013), in part driven by the implementation of the EU strategy on adaptation to climate change. Evaluation of the adaptation strategy is under way and will be completed in 2018.
Financial resources and transfer of technology ▹ The EU and its Member States are the world's biggest providers of official development assistance to developing countries, delivering EUR 75.4 billion in 2016. In particular, the EU, EIB and Member States provided EUR 20.2 billion to help developing countries tackle climate change in 2016. For the EU alone, provision of bilateral financial support has increased during the reporting period, from USD 1 281 million (€ 964 million) in 2013 to USD 3 020 million (€ 2 730 million) in 2016. Total financial support provided by the EU in the years 2015 and 2016 amounted to USD 4 702 million (€ 4 247 million). The EU has increased targeted support to the poorest and most vulnerable countries, through a variety of policies and measures, but specifically through the European Development Fund (EDF), Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), and a new phase of the EU Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+) Initiative, with respective commitments of USD 33 739 million (€ 30 500 million), USD 21 681 million (€ 19 600 million) and USD 479 million (€ 432 million) during 2014-2020. The EU has mainstreamed technology transfer and capacity building activities into all development support.
Research and systematic observation ▹ The EU contributes to research and systematic observation (RSO) through the involvement of multiple actors, and various instruments, tools and programmes, and across multiple sectoral policies. Research is a shared competence of the EU and its Member States. Only actions coordinated at EU level are reported in the EU National Communication. Key vehicles include Horizon 2020, the EU’s 2014-2020 framework programme for research and innovation, where approximately 35 % of its budget is expected to be used for climate-relevant research and innovation. Other action includes: LIFE+ (the EU’s 2014-2020 funding instrument for the environment and climate); the 2014-2020 programme for the competitiveness of enterprises and SMEs; international cooperation enhanced through various platforms and instruments; contributions to and/or financial support for major international institutions, research initiatives and programmes, such as the UNFCCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the global climate observing system (GCOS); and Mission Innovation – launched in the margins of COP 21 to accelerate global clean energy innovation through the doubling of clean energy R&I public investments in the next 5 years. To facilitate the implementation of the strategy on accelerating clean energy research and innovation, over EUR 2 billion in Horizon 2020's work programme (2018-2020) have been allocated to programmable actions addressing four interconnected research and innovation priorities (decarbonising the EU's building stock by 2050, strengthening EU leadership in renewables, developing affordable and integrated energy storage solutions, and electromobility and a more integrated urban transport system). In addition, further research investments from Member States towards low-carbon energy are planned through the Strategic Energy Technologies (SET) Plan. It promotes research and innovation efforts across Europe by supporting the most impactful technologies in the EU's transformation to a lowcarbon energy system. It promotes cooperation amongst EU countries, companies, research institutions, and the EU itself.
Education, training and public awareness ▹ The EU has been investing significant effort and resources into raising its citizens’awareness of the challenges posed by climate change, but also the opportunities, in particular as regards reducing GHG emissions. Action in the field of education (e.g. Erasmus+, Horizon 2020 science education, the Knowledge and Innovation Communities of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology – in particular ClimaKIC and InnoEnergy), public information campaigns (e.g. climate-policy and open-door days), communication activities, training and awareness-raising campaigns have all played an important role in this context.
Conclusion ▹ The domestic and international action taken by the EU and its Member States through the climate and energy package has resulted in significant emission reductions and the GHG reduction trends continue, with a clear decoupling of economic growth from GHG emissions. Action has also been stepped up, inter alia through new policy proposals to deliver additional emission reductions in key sectors post-2020. The EU has continued to strengthen the evidence base for decision-making on climate change adaptation and has strengthened efforts to improve climate resilience in Europe. Furthermore, by stepping up the support and assistance it provides to developing countries, the EU has helped to enhance action globally.
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Expected impacts and vulnerabilities of climate change in the EU. Climate change is already occurring globally and across Europe. While it is clear that all regions of Europe are vulnerable to climate change, certain hotspots, in particular the southern and south-eastern regions, are expected to experience the most acute adverse impacts. [...]
Food production and supply ▹ Agriculture still plays a dominant economic role in many regions in Europe, and at the same time continues to be the predominant user of land and water resources. As highlighted in Section 6.3.1 of the 6NC, the stress imposed by climate change on agriculture is likely to intensify the regional disparities between European countries, with some regions experiencing positive impacts, and others experiencing only negative impacts. Observed changes in crop phenology include the advancement of flowering and harvest dates in cereals. Projected temperature rise will lead to increased evapotranspiration rates, thereby increasing crop water demand across Europe. Water demand is expected to increase most in southern and central Europe, where crop deficit and irrigation needs are projected to increase. Expansion of a range of agricultural pests not previously found in Europe can be expected due to increased temperatures allowing them to survive wintertime and to have multiple generation cycles per year, and by increasing the susceptibility of crops and trees to new dangerous pests of plants from other continents. As discussed in Section 6.3.9 of the 6NC, the expected main effect of climate change in the coming decades will be to shift food production from southern to northern Europe without significantly curtailing overall production. [...]
Forestry ▹ Climate change impacts on forests and on the ecosystem services they provide include shifts of tree species towards higher altitudes and latitudes, an increased risk of forest fires - particularly in southern Europe - as well as an increased incidence of forest pest insects. Forests cover around 215 million hectares across Europe, which is around 33 % of the total land area. In recent years, large forest fires have repeatedly affected Europe, in particular Mediterranean countries. The danger of forest fires will increase with unmitigated climate change (preliminary results of the JRC PESETA III project). [...] Cold-adapted coniferous tree species are expected to lose large areas of their ranges to broadleaf species, and forest growth is projected to decrease in southern Europe but increase in Northern Europe. Furthermore, projected changes to forest ecosystems will have an impact on the goods and services that forests provide. For example, the value of forestland in Europe is forecast to decrease between 14 % and 50 % during the 21st century.
Freshwater resources ▹ Vulnerability to climate change is intimately linked to the impact on water resources through floods and droughts, but also through the impact on fisheries and low river flows on aquatic ecosystems. The Mediterranean region is expected to be increasingly affected by severe impacts on its water resources, due to extreme high temperatures and droughts. There is high certainty that the water resources of mountain regions will be negatively affected in the future. This will have impacts on hydropower production, winter tourism and ecosystems. Physical risk to infrastructure and settlements from slope instability may also increase. According to the preliminary results of the droughts and water sectors of the JRC PESETA III project, under a 2°C climate future the Southwest Mediterranean is a region of concern, with extreme droughts projected for much of Southern Europe. Regarding river floods, around 216 000 people across the EU are already exposed to river flooding annually, with flood damage amounting to € 5.3 billion each year. Under 3 °C global warming and assuming present socio-economic conditions prevail into the future, and that there is no adaptation, flood risk could almost triple (preliminary findings of the JRC PESETA III study). Over 600 000 people could be exposed to floods each year, amounting to € 14.5 billion of annual losses. With respect to coastal systems, the study’s preliminary results also show that if no adaptation measures are taken, climate and socio-economic change could increase annual flood damages by around € 960 billion. From around 100 000 people currently, coastal floods could affect 3.6 million people annually across Europe by the end of the century, an increase by a factor of 35.
Marine resources and fisheries ▹ Increased water temperature and reduced oxygen can result in marked changes in species composition, nutritional value and size, and on the functioning of aquatic ecosystems. Climate change has negatively impacted the resilience of marine ecosystems, making them more vulnerable to other high intensity ecological stressors such as overfishing, pollution and introduction of non-indigenous species. Of the commonly observed demersal fish species (fish living and feeding on or near the bottom of seas or lakes), 72 % have experienced changes in abundance and/or distribution in response to warming waters. This change has already had important impacts on fisheries in the Atlantic region. Elevated sea temperatures have triggered a major northwards retreat of colder water plankton in the North-east Atlantic, estimated at 1 100 km over the last 40 years. This trend has accelerated since 2000 and is expected to shift the distribution of fisheries. Sub-arctic species are receding northwards as a result, and more sub-tropical species are appearing in European fisheries. Continued changes in fisheries distribution will affect the livelihoods of fishing communities and impact current international agreements on the exploitation of straddling and highly migratory stocks.
Energy ▹ The energy sector faces multiple threats from climate change, from changing patterns of demand, increasing stress on water resources and extreme weather events. The number of heating degree-days has decreased and the number of cooling degree-days has increased, leading to a decrease in energy demand for heating (particularly in northern and north-western Europe) but an increase in energy demand for cooling (particularly in central and southern Europe). Recent information from the preliminary JRC PESETA III indicates that the net effect on energy demand would be a decrease of around 25 % by 2100. In addition, the introduction of better building insulation would further reduce demand by up to 40 %. [...]
Infrastructure and Urban Settlements ▹
Cities and urban areas
Climate change will have a direct impact on cities, including increasing health problems due to heat, or flooding damage to buildings and infrastructure. With a higher proportion of elderly people, cities will also be more sensitive to heat waves and other climatic hazards. Increased incidences of heavy rainfall can cause flooding along coastlines, within river catchments and also from poor urban drainage. This has an indirect impact on homes, business and critical infrastructure. The urban heat island (UHI) effect is exacerbating the impacts of heat waves, which is increasingly affecting also cities in central and north-western Europe. High soil sealing and urban sprawl, in combination with more extreme precipitation events and sea level rise increase the risk of urban flooding. Many cities have experienced significant urban sprawl, noticeably expanding into areas such as floodplains, therefore increasing their exposure to floods. Furthermore, low-density housing built on previously untouched land has increased the risk of forest fires in many residential areas over the last decades, in particular around cities in southern Europe. [...]
Biodiversity, Ecosystems and Ecosystem Services ▹ Biodiversity and ecosystems are under threat from several drivers, including socio-economic drivers, development and industry, agricultural practices as well as observed climate change. The relative importance of climate change as a major driver of biodiversity and ecosystem change is projected to increase in the future. Human efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change can both positively and negatively affect ecosystems, biodiversity and other ecosystem services. The relative importance of climate change compared with other pressures depends on the type of environment (terrestrial, freshwater, marine) and geographical region. Europe's marine and alpine ecosystems are currently the most sensitive to climate change. Current observed climate change impacts on terrestrial ecosystems include changes in soil conditions, phenological changes, and altitudinal and latitudinal migration of plant and animal species (the general trend is northwards and upwards), as well as changes in species interactions and composition within communities. In Europe, 14 % of habitats and 13 % of species of interest have been assessed to already be under pressure because of climate change. The number of habitats threatened by climate change is projected to more than double in the near future. Many species in the Natura 2000 network are projected to lose suitable climate niches. It is expected in the future, in particular in the Mediterranean region, that changes in soil moisture will have a direct effect on terrestrial ecosystems. Climate change is also anticipated to exacerbate the spread of invasive species, already being experienced across Europe. Climate change therefore significantly affects the capacity of ecosystems to provide services for human well-being and may have already triggered shifts in ecological regimes from one state to another. While the knowledge base on the combined effects of climate change and other pressures on ecosystems and their capacity to provide services is still limited, it is improving. The Mediterranean region is home to almost half of the plant and animal species and more than half of the habitats listed in the EU Habitats Directive. However, this reservoir of biodiversity is threatened by climate-driven habitat loss because the Mediterranean climate zone is at risk of becoming smaller, according to the preliminary results of the JRC PESETA III project. [...]
Health ▹ Climate change is already contributing to the burden of disease and premature deaths in Europe. Its main health effects are related to heat waves and other extreme weather events, changes in the distribution of climate-sensitive diseases and changes in environmental and social conditions. A recent study found that weather-related disasters could affect about two-thirds of the European population annually by the year 2100 (351 million people exposed per year during the period 2071–100) compared with 5 % during the reference period (1981–2010; 25 million people exposed per year). About 50 times the number of fatalities occurring annually during the reference period (3 000 deaths) could occur by the year 2100 (152 000 deaths). Heat waves were the deadliest extreme weather event in the period 1991–2015 in Europe, causing tens of thousands of premature deaths in Europe. The projected further increase in the length, frequency and intensity of heat waves will lead to greater mortality, which will be most pronounced among vulnerable population groups, unless adaptation measures are taken. Future adaptation will very likely reduce these impacts. The reduction in cold-related deaths is projected to be smaller than the increase in heat-related deaths in most regions. Mortality effects are observed even for small differences from seasonal average temperatures. Because small temperature differences occur much more frequently than large temperature differences, not accounting for the effect of these small differences would lead to underestimating the future impact of climate change. Climate change is expected to alter the geographic and seasonal distributions of existing vectors and vector-borne diseases. Climate change is influencing the transmission cycles of vector-borne diseases, but disease risks are also affected by factors such as land use, vector control, human behaviour, population movements and public health capacities. It is widely suspected that climate change has played (and will continue to play) a role in the expansion of disease vectors such as the spread of the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), which can disseminate several diseases including dengue, chikungunya and Zika, and Phlebotomus species of sand flies which transmit leishmaniasis. [...]
Economic activity and employment ▹ The climate change impacts on economic activity and employment are expected to be mixed, with substantial disparities among regions in Europe. The complexity of the interlinkages between the climate and the economy mean that there is little certainty in projections. Rising temperatures and erratic weather patterns have the potential to reduce agricultural productivity across many European regions. Extreme weather events can severely disrupt economic activity. Sea-level rise will put physical capital assets at increasing risk. On the other hand, climate change may also offer new business opportunities in the form of new products and services to help people to adapt. Historically, the total reported economic losses caused by weather and climate-related extremes in the EEA member countries over the period 1980-2015 amount to around EUR 433 billion (in 2015 Euro values). The average annual economic losses have varied between EUR 7.5 billion in the period 1980-1989, EUR 13.5 billion in the period 1990-1999, and EUR 14.3 billion in the period 2000-2009. In the period from 2010 to 2015 the average annual loss accounted to around EUR 13.3 billion. The observed variations in reported economic loss over time are difficult to interpret since a large share of the total deflated losses has been caused by a small number of events. Specifically, more than 70 % of the economic losses was caused by only 3 % of all registered events. [...]
Social issues ▹ As discussed in Section 6.3.11 in the 6NC, climate change impacts are expected to affect people’s daily lives in terms of employment, housing, health, water and energy access as well as the furthering of gender equality and human rights efforts. Populations in some European areas are at a higher risk from climate change than others, depending on their exposure to climatic hazards and their vulnerability. Results from scenarios for adaptive capacity in the CLIMSAVE project show that overall coping capacity is assumed to either improve or deteriorate substantially towards the 2020s and even further towards the 2050s, depending on the scenario. The currently prevailing spatial distribution across Europe of a higher capacity in central and north-western Europe and a lower capacity in southern and in particular in (some of) Eastern Europe is projected to prevail across all scenarios. The research caveats that such trends and patterns do not provide information on particular threats and specific local contexts, and should therefore be used in conjunction with hazard-, sector- and location-specific information.
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(December 2017) 
Key: INRMM:14513931

Keywords

                                       


Available versions (may include free-access full text)

http://unfccc.int/national_reports/bienni…, http://www.webcitation.org/6wWFxEfe9, https://web.archive.org/web/2018010911204…, http://unfccc.int/files/national_reports/…

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