Denmark and the EU's 2030 climate goals

Published 4 january 2017

The Danish Council on Climate Change has analysed the Danish share of the EU’s 2030 climate target. On face value it sounds like a great assignment, but the goal contains so much freedom that Denmark does not need to have a rushed and costly transition in the period 2021-2030. Instead it provides the possibility to launch intelligent actions which will also put us on the right path towards 2050.

The EU has a climate target for 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent compared to 2005 from the part of the economy that is not covered by the EU Emission Trading System (ETS). The non-ETS part of the economy consists mainly of agriculture, transport and individual heating for residential and commercial buildings. The Member States have been assigned reduction targets for the non-ETS sector of 0-40 percent, and as Denmark is one of the richest European Union countries, we have a target of 39 percent. It sounds high, but when the target is analysed in detail, it is not so difficult to live up to.

Denmark should avoid buying its reductions

Denmark has the opportunity to take advantage of several so-called flexibility mechanisms to meet its target. That is a choice between different means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Danish Council on Climate Change's analysis shows that some of these flexibility options will not result in real reductions leading up to 2030, and the Council therefore recommends that Denmark does not use the flexibility mechanism to its fullest. Specifically, Denmark should avoid buying reductions from abroad in the form of allowances from the ETS or credits in the non-ETS sector.

The task is still manageable

Although Denmark will refrain from using full flexibility and purchase reductions from abroad, the task will be manageable. In fact the Danish Council on Climate Change estimates that fulfilling the Danish reduction commitment in the non-ETS sector for 2030 with partial use of flexibility would require reductions in the period 2021-30 at a slightly slower pace than in the current commitment period covering 2013-2020.

If Denmark undertakes the majority of its reductions within its own borders, we will still have to increase the reduction pace in the non-ETS sector of the economy significantly after 2030 in order to meet the climate targets for 2050.

Reductions must be planned well in advance

Although Denmark has previously managed to reduce emissions at a similar pace, transport and agriculture will be a particularly significant challenge, as by 2020 these sectors combined are expected to account for 80 percent of emissions in the non-ETS-covered part of the economy.

In order to assess how the  task can best be achieved, an analysis of the reduction potentials and costs of various measures in the period 2021-2030 should be initiated from the political side in order to put Denmark on the right path towards the 2050 target.

The Danish Council on Climate Change's analysis “Denmark and the EU's 2030 climate goals - analysis of the Commission's proposal for reduction targets outside the Emission Trading Scheme” and related fact sheets can be downloaded from the menu.