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Greenhouse gases: reducing emissions by 20 % or more by 2020

This summary has been archived and will not be updated, because the summarised document is no longer in force or does not reflect the current situation.

Greenhouse gases: reducing emissions by 20 % or more by 2020

The wide-ranging economic crisis has impacted on the targets the EU set itself in 2008 of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 % by 2020. This reduces the target as a force for modernising the European economy and making it more competitive. It also has implications for a possible EU move towards a 30 % target as part of a global effort.


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Analysis of options to move beyond 20 % greenhouse gas emission reductions and assessing the risk of carbon leakage (COM(2010) 265 final of 26.5.2010).



It analyses the options for the EU of moving from its existing 20 % target to a more ambitious one of 30 %.


  • Absolute costs of meeting the 20 % target have fallen. In 2008, they were estimated at €70 billion per year. By 2010, they had fallen to €48 billion.
  • Progress towards the 20 % reduction target for 2020 agreed in 2008 is not sufficient to reach the longer 2050 aim of cuts of between 80-95 % in the most efficient way. This could make the EU’s efforts after 2020 more difficult and expensive.
  • Various options exist to reach the 30 % target. They include:
  • The total cost of a 30 % reduction, including those of going to 20 %, is estimated at €81 billion or 0.54 % of EU gross domestic product.
  • A 30 % target would stimulate technological innovation. This could increase the competitiveness of European industry and bring health benefits through better air quality.
  • Different ways exist to prevent domestic producers of greenhouse gases moving their activities outside the EU (carbon leakage), where less rigorous standards apply. They include exempting energy-intensive industries from buying ETS allowances and encouraging other countries to take greenhouse gas reduction measures.

For more information, see the European Commission’s web page on greenhouse gas emissions.

last update 26.03.2015