EU 30 per cent Carbon Emissions Target: Achievable and Affordable

Greenhouse gas emissions in the EU can be cut to 30% below 1990 levels by 2020 (45% by 2030) based on an analysis of the emission reduction potential and costs to society of 650 technologies in ten major sectors.

Utrecht - The European Union can achieve a 30% cut in greenhouse gas emissions at practically zero net cost. Simply replacing all energy-related equipment at the end of its economic life with low-carbon technologies, paid for thanks to lower energy bills, could almost halve the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions within two decades.

This is the conclusion of SERPEC-CC (Sectoral Emission Reduction Potentials and Economic Costs for Climate Change), a comprehensive two-year study that closely examined 650 relevant technologies across ten major sectors. The study was coordinated by Ecofys, a consultancy firm in the field of sustainable energy and climate change. The study’s publication comes on the eve of the European Council meeting at which European heads of state will meet to discuss cuts to the EU’s carbon emissions.

SERPEC assumes that low-carbon technologies will be applied in each cycle of renewal or renovation of industrial plants, power production plants, buildings, cars, trucks and electric appliances. SERPEC concludes that the potential for greenhouse gas emissions reductions through a shift to low-carbon technologies in the EU27 is 30% (below the 1990 level) by 2020 and 45% by 2030.

The accompanying cost-curve graph gives a visual explanation of how much each of the technologies saves or costs money. It also clearly shows how the two effectively cancel each other out, thus making the changes cost neutral.

Bart Wesselink, SERPEC project manager at Ecofys, said:”The key to achieving these emissions targets lies in behavioural change. Businesses and individuals often choose to buy new equipment based on upfront costs, but this is short-term thinking. Low-carbon technologies pay back over time and save money in the long run.”

As shown in the cost curve below, SERPEC identified all of the incremental costs to society of capital investments and of the operation and maintenance related to low-carbon technologies (compared to reference technologies). Lower energy bills (excluding taxes and subsidies) are also taken into account.

Many of the technologies are beneficial to society thanks to the money they save (see the left-hand side of the graph). The overall benefits are comparable to or even larger than the overall societal costs of more expensive technologies (see the right-hand side of the graph). Setting the costs against the benefits leads to the conclusion that overall the EU’s transition to a low-carbon EU economy can be cost-neutral.

 grafiek2-Costcurve EU27

“On the eve of the European Council meeting these results show how the 30% emissions target is within reach. Whilst achieving the target will demand political leadership and determination as well as a strong upfront financial commitment, the resulting efficiencies of the low carbon economy will mean the net cost of the transition for the European society is practically zero.”  Bart Wesselink Figure 1 European greenhouse gas abatement cost curve for 650 technologies in 2030, aggregated into clusters. The abatement potential in 2030 (X-axis) is relative to emission levels resulting from a frozen technology pathway (baseline: 2005). The Y-axis shows the specific societal costs of abatement.

The SERPEC-CC project was carried out by a consortium of Ecofys (lead partner), the Institute of Communication and Computer Systems (ICCS) of the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) - EC Joint Research Centre (JRC),

The summary and sector reports can be downloaded from

For More Information: Ecofys

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