Photo: Michel Banabila (Flickr)
The European Union has been a vocal advocate of taking action to reduce emissions and combat the effects of climate change.
The EU was one of the signers of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the first major international effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Using 1990 levels as a baseline, the treaty obliged the EU to cut emissions 8 percent by 2012 and 20 percent by 2020.
Various projections indicate that the EU should be able to meet the 2012 target, despite the fact that performance in terms of cutting emissions has been uneven across member states.
With the goal of reducing emissions, the EU launched the world’s largest “emissions trading scheme,” which created emissions allowances for large emitters of carbon dioxide.
The EU has also provided incentives for the development of alternative energy. The EU as a whole has set a goal to have 20 percent of its total energy consumption come from renewable energy sources by 2020, although different countries have different targets.
Although some countries are on track to meet their interim targets, there is a great deal of variation. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2009 Austria got 74 percent of its electricity from renewable sources while the figure for Sweden was 60 percent, making these two countries the clear leaders. For a number of countries, however, the figures are below 15 percent.
Many European companies have become leaders in the renewable energy industry. The Danish firm Vestas, for example, has emerged as the world’s leading manufacturer of wind power, and its turbines can be found at the wind farms in northwest Indiana.
This episode of One State One World is produced in partnership with the EU Center at Indiana University.
Read more about the European Union on the EU Center’s blog, Across the Pond.