5 takeaways from The European Commission’s 2050 climate strategy (A Clean Planet for all)

Written by

  • Jørgen Skovmose Madsen, Director of EU Affairs, Danish Energy
  • Karsten Capion, Senior Advisor, Energy System modelling, Danish Energy


On the 28th of November 2018 the European Commission published its 2050 Climate Strategy – “A Clean Planet for all.”

Below, we highlight five key takeaways from the analysis.


  1. A climate-neutral Europe by 2050 is possible

The Commission has prepared a total of eight scenarios for how greenhouse gas emissions can develop from today until 2050.

Two of the scenarios point to a climate-neutral Europe in 2050, which is also highlighted as the European Commission’s ambition. The costs of a climate neutral Europe by 2050 are not estimated to be higher than the costs of the other scenarios (between 80 and 90% reductions).

The exercise has also yielded updated results for 2030 with implied GHG reductions by 2030 of around 46 % – substantially higher than the 40 % reduction target currently agreed upon in EU legislation. The reduction potential may even be higher on short term when accounting for the rapid improvements in cost and performance of key technologies especially wind and solar power.


  1. At least 95% of emissions must be removed – the rest requires negative emissions

A climate neutral Europe does not mean that no greenhouse gases are emitted at all. There will still be livestock in European agriculture as well as industrial processes like cement production which emit CO2 even when not using fossil fuels.

One solution to this is to plant more forest and/or convert low yielding farm land to permanent grassland (negative emissions) to increase CO2 absorption in Europe. An additional solution is to capture and store CO2 emissions from e.g. cement facilities underground instead of releasing it into the atmosphere.

The Commission’s analysis indicates that widespread use of these solutions, both today and in the future, are expected to remain very costly. Therefore, they will not pose as a effective alternative to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but rather be means that can be used when other options are exhausted.


  1. Electrification will be the main tool

To ensure an effective green transition, massive electrification will have to take place (based on carbon neutral electricity of course). In fact, the Commission writes that

“The most important single driver for a decarbonised energy system is the growing role of electricity both in final energy demand and in the supply of alternative fuels, which will be mostly met by renewables, and in particular by wind and solar electricity”

Across the eight scenarios gross electricity production will increase by around 50 to 200 %. In the two climate neutral scenarios, electricity production increases between 100 and 150 %.

Across the eight scenarios, electricity consumption in buildings will increase by between 20 and 65%.

In transport increased electricity use will be particularly high in light vehicles, while the use of electricity in short sea-shipping and heavy road transport (and even aviation) is still at the research and development stage. From 2015 to 2050 a 6-fold to a 10-fold increase in electricity consumption in the transport sector is expected.


  1. Wind energy becomes the primary power source in Europe

By 2015, the amount of electricity produced from wind turbines was 25 times larger than it was in 2000 – representing 9% of EU electricity consumption.

As the cost of producing and installing wind turbines is falling and the design of the wind turbines are improving so that they yield more stable outputs the share of wind energy will increase significantly. The Commission estimates that more than 50% of EU electricity consumption by 2050 will be covered by wind energy.

Solar energy will also play a significant role in 2050. Decreases in costs of 80% since 2010 means that solar plants can now also be built without state aid in several places. This results in an expected 15% share of electricity consumption from solar power in 2050, this being at around three percent today.

In total, the Commission expects that renewable energy, including hydropower and biomass, will account for about 85% of power supply in 2050 in a climate-neutral scenario. On top of that Nuclear power is expected to account for 12-16%.

Coal and gas combined will thus account for less than 5 % of electricity generation by 2050.


  1. Energy consumption in Europe must fall significantly

Although electricity consumption will increase in Europe, total energy consumption in the EU will fall significantly. Among other things, internal combustion engines in cars and the burning of natural gas to generate heat will be minimised significantly, as switching to more efficient electricity-based technologies takes place.

In the scenarios aimed at a climate-neutral EU by 2050, energy consumption decreases by up to 50%, and in all scenarios energy consumption decreases by at least 30%.

Both electrification and energy efficiency will play an important role in heavy industry. In part by replacing fossil fuels with green electricity wherever possible and in part by reducing heat loss as well as reusing waste heat either internally or in combination with district heating. In industry, electricity consumption is expected to increase between 20 and 60%. A significant optimization of the way we use energy will also be necessary.

The Commission estimates that energy consumption in buildings must be reduced by 40 to 60 % by 2050 compared to 2005. The importance of this is underlined by an increasing population and the demand of more square meters per residence.

Among other actions, energy efficiency in homes will be achieved through the renovation of a significant part of the building stock (e.g. making better insulation, multi-layer windows, etc.). Yearly renovation rates are projected to be between 1.4 % and 1.8 % (between 1.6 % and 1.8 % in the climate neutral scenarios).

Also, more efficient and intelligent devices will play a significant role (e.g. thermostats, efficient pumps, use of heat pumps instead of gas boilers etc.).

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