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Scientific advice for the determination of an EU-wide 2040 climate target and a greenhouse gas budget for 2030–2050

In the report ‘Scientific advice for the determination of an EU-wide 2040 climate target and a greenhouse gas budget for 2030–2050’, the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change provides EU institutions with a science-based estimate of a 2040 climate target and an EU greenhouse gas emissions budget for the period 2030-2050.

In the report ‘Scientific advice for the determination of an EU-wide 2040 climate target and a greenhouse gas budget for 2030–2050’, the Advisory Board conducted a comprehensive assessment of the latest available scientifically based greenhouse gas emission scenarios for achieving climate neutrality in the EU by 2050, in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The findings, based on rigorous analysis considering both fairness and feasibility, highlight the urgent need for ambitious actions to address climate change.

The report also outlines possible pathways and related overarching policy choices to achieve the necessary emission reductions.

2030-2050 carbon budget and the 2040 climate target

The report recommends keeping the EU's greenhouse gas emissions budget (i.e. cumulative emissions) for the period 2030 to 2050 within a limit of 11-14 Gt CO2e, in line with limiting global warming to 1.5 °C (with no or only limited and temporary exceedance of that temperature).

To achieve this, the EU must strive for net emissions reductions of 90-95% by 2040, relative to 1990 levels. These reductions are essential for mitigating climate risks and achieving a sustainable future.

Both feasibility and fairness should be considered

To identify feasible emission reductions in the EU by 2040, the Advisory Board analysed over 1000 EU emission pathways, identifying those scenarios that align with the objective of limiting global warming to 1.5°C and the EU’s goal to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

The Advisory Board assessed these scenarios and considered their feasibility, including the environmental risks and challenges associated with short-term scale-up of technologies including for solar photovoltaics, wind power, and hydrogen energy.

To select the scenarios that achieve an appropriate EU contribution to the Paris Agreement temperature goal, the Advisory Board also assessed the fairness of the EU's contribution to global emissions reduction efforts under different ethical principles. Under all assumptions assessed, the Advisory Board identified a shortfall between the feasible pathways for domestic emissions, and fair share estimates based on different equity principles.

To address this shortfall, the EU should aim for the upper limit of feasible reductions in domestic emissions. Support, cooperation and partnerships outside the EU can also address the shortfall between the EU’s fair share and the recommended feasible budget.

The recommended 2040 target and 2030-2050 budget can be realised by starting with the achievement of the current 55% reduction target by 2030. Additional short-term emission reductions would further decrease the EU’s cumulative emissions until 2050, and thus increase the fairness of the EU’s contribution to global mitigation.

Implications for society

The assessed scenarios reveal several common features that are important to consider. One notable aspect found in multiple scenarios is the significant deployment of wind and solar energy, combined with electrification of energy use and scale-up of fossil fuel alternatives such as hydrogen.

Pathways combining this technology scale-up with efficiency gains can lead to a near-complete decarbonisation of the EU power sector by 2040, including the phase-out of coal-fired electricity generation by 2030 and unabated gas-fired generation by 2040. These pathways also minimise the EU’s reliance on removal of CO2 from the atmosphere (by either novel carbon removal technologies or enhancement of the natural land sink) thereby minimising the risks associated with relying on these approaches. However, even these pathways require carbon removal at scale in order to achieve climate neutrality.

Furthermore, the analysis highlights the numerous benefits of reducing reliance on fossil fuels and natural resources. In addition to reducing EU dependency on fossil fuel imports, thereby increasing its energy security, this transition enhances the health and wellbeing of EU citizens through improved air quality. It can also reduce water stress and lead to better nature protection. However, realising these benefits requires careful planning at European, national and local levels, with inclusive decision-making, engagement with stakeholders, ensuring equity and justice, and catalysing innovation and wider capacity development.

Supporting information and data

Click here to download supporting information, including the figures featured in the report and their underlying data.

Click here to access the database of scenario data that was submitted to the Advisory Board to support the production of this report.

A list of corrections made to previous published version of the report is available here.

Click here to download the Advisory Board’s initial recommendations on the 2040 target and accompanying greenhouse gas budget: 'Setting climate targets based on scientific evidence and EU values'.