How can the EU achieve net-zero greenhousegas emissions?

The picture shows solar panels as well as wind turbines.Click to enlarge
A sustainable energy supply is based on 100 percent renewable energy resources.
Source: Kalafoto /

With the Paris Agreement the EU urgently needs to re-assess its long-term target. A new scenario, commissioned by UBA, shows that a GHG-neutral EU is feasible, based on a fully decarbonized energy supply, without carbon capture and storage. Key components of the scenario are a strong increase in energy efficiency as well as far-reaching electrification. The use of bioenergy is strongly limited.

Given that the Paris Agreement has strengthened the long-term temperature goal and that it calls for a balance of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and sinks within the 21st century, there is the urgent need to re-assess the long-term targets of the EU and to show how the target of GHG neutrality can be reached in the EU by mid-century. 

The aim of this study was to design a scenario called “GHG-neutral EU2050” as one way to realize a European Union with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions under further sustainability criteria. The scenario shows that a GHG-neutral EU is feasible even without the use of carbon capture and storage and with limited amounts of bioenergy. Key components of the scenario in all energy-consuming sectors (industry, buildings and transport) are a strong increase in energy efficiency as well as far-reaching electrification. These measures can reduce the final energy demand (including international transport) by about 37 percent and the share of electricity can be increased to almost 50 percent. 

In addition, a broad portfolio of other renewable energy options has to be exploited and substantial quantities of renewable fuels are required, which are produced from renewable electricity via electrolysis or based on biomass. Due to unavoidable GHG emissions from agriculture, industrial processes and waste treatment, achieving GHG neutrality also requires lower activity of the agricultural sector and an increased GHG sink from forestry. 

Besides the detailed quantitative description of a sectoral setup for all GHG-emitting sectors, the study contains a qualitative discussion of the sectoral options to reach GHG-neutrality, cross-sectoral interactions as well as the challenges associated with realizing such a scenario.


Printer-friendly version
 ghg emissions  EU climate policy  long-term climate strategy  Paris Agreement