Summary: The EU’s “Fit for 55” campaign is nothing but feel good bluff, which could cause the EU to miss its Paris Agreement target, since “Fit for 55” is marginally less ambitious.
The EU’s new “Fit for 55” target sounds ambitious compared to the 2016 Paris Agreement target.
In the Paris Agreement world leaders and governments decided it was too ambitious to use 1990 as the baseline year for greenhouse gas (“GHG”) reductions targets because the world’s GHG emissions have been going up ever since 1990, so committing to a reduction based on 1990 seemed unrealistic. 1990 was the baseline year agreed in the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. Instead, the Paris Agreement decided on 2019 as a new baseline year on which governments committed to make a 43% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030.
In November 2022 EU President Ursula von der Leyen commented:
“COP27 has confirmed that the world will not backtrack on the Paris Agreement”
and in October 2023 she said:
“The legislation to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 is now in place, and I am very happy that we are even on track to overshoot this ambition … Europe is delivering on its promises.”
Unlike the world as a whole the EU has significantly reduced its GHG emissions since 1990. So instead of emissions in 2019 being higher than in 1990, they are lower. This means that it is actually harder for the EU to deliver on the Paris Agreement target than it is to deliver on its “Fit for 55” target as can be seen in the graph below.
By focusing on achieving “Fit for 55” the EU might actually miss fulfilling its obligations under the Paris Agreement, as illustrated in graph below.
Instead of reducing its Net GHG emissions by 59% it will only reduce them by 55%. This means that by 2030 the EU’s Net GHG emissions will be 190 MegaTons higher (9.1%) than what it has committed to in the Paris Agreement, as shown in graphs below.
It is a somewhat ironic that the EU has launched a “Fit for 55” campaign, which sounds good, but actually delivers less than its Paris Agreement obligations, whilst at the same time the EU is pushing for new legislation to combat false environmental claims. Outgoing Climate Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius comments on the Green Claims Directive:
“We want, first of all, consumers to get trustworthy information … We want environmental labels that are more transparent and, of course, easier to understand.”
The Green Claim Directive is meant to target false product claims, but if it was applied to policy, would “Fit for 55” be one of those claims that the EU would want to clamp down on?
The EU’s ability to deliver “Fit for 55”
To achieve its “Fit for 55” target the EU has to reduce its GHG emissions by 127 MegaTons per year until 2030. To achieve the Paris Agreement target the annual reduction required is 131 MegaTons (graph below).
Since 1990 annual reductions of this magnitude has only happened five times; 1991 (Dot.com Recession), 2008 & 2009 (Financial Crisis), and 2019 & 2020 (COVID Lock Down).
Reductions of the required magnitude have historically been achieved due to external factors, not EU climate change policy.
To deliver on “Fit for 55” or the Paris Agreement the EU will have to more than double its annual emission reductions compared to its historical performance.
On top of that there is no guarantee that emissions will reduce each year. Historically, there has been an increase in emissions 3-4 years within each 10 year period since 1990 as shown in graph below.
For the EU to deliver on its target the next 8 years must be emission reduction years. This has never happened before. Historically, the longest “reduction streak” has been 4 years and this has only happened twice; 1991-94 and 2011-14.
The EU’s “Fit for 55” is basicially bluff without substance. It does not make the EU any more outstanding than any other country, which has committed to fulfilling the Paris Agreement target. “Fit for 55” may actually cause the EU to miss the Paris Agreement target, since it is marginally less ambitious.
Based on historical performance it looks unlikely either target can be achieved.
There is no doubt that “Fit for 55” sounds great and if you do not do the math, you are led to believe the EU is doing incredible things to fight climate change. It seems to be exactly that type of misleading claim the EU wants to prevent with the Green Claims Directive.
It could be tempting to rename the “Fit for 55” initiative “Fit for Re-election” because it is difficult to see what real use it has, apart from making politicians look good in time for the 2024 European Elections.
If you’ve read this far you may also be interested in: Climate Change – Why you Will Become an Explorer
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