DG Regio_low carbon

At the UN Climate Conference in Paris in December 2015, negotiators hope to achieve a binding and universal agreement on climate targets. European policymakers hope that strict targets will help transition the EU towards a low-carbon economy (LCE), an economy that produces minimal greenhouse gas emissions. However, to make the change, the EU will need to invest an additional 270 billion (1.5% of GDP) annually over the next 4 decades, including into new technologies such as renewable energies and smart grids.

Ahead of the UN meeting in Paris, the EU has already agreed to both a 2020 Climate and Energy Package and a 2030 Framework for Climate and Energy. The 2020 targets commit EU countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, increase their share of renewable energy consumption, and increase their energy efficiency, all by 20% by the year 2020.

We’ve put together some statistics on the low-carbon economy in an infographic below (you can see it full screen here).

We had a question sent in by Alessandro on our Suggest a Debate page, asking what the EU is doing to support renewable energy and sustainable development in the poorest regions in Europe.

To get a response, we put Alessandro’s question to Corina Creţu, the European Commissioner for Regional Policy. What would she say?

Another question was sent in by Marta, who wanted to know what role cities can play in ensuring energy security and efficiency, and in developing renewable energy sources?

We put Marta’s question to Markus Trilling, EU funds Campaign Coordinator at CEE Bankwatch Network, an organisation representing a network of environmental NGOs in Central and Eastern Europe. How would he respond?

Finally, we spoke to Jakob Lagercrantz, an environmental consultant and former Executive Director of Greenpeace Sweden who often works with municipalities and companies tackling environmental cross-border issues. How would he respond to Marta’s question?

jakob-lagercrantz-215-240Well, actually, I think that regions and cities are doing more than countries. In the country where I live, Sweden, I would say that the municipalities and regions are doing more than the national government because it’s on the ground that the work is really being done. And the city, in concert with the rural surroundings, has a very important role to play. How do we avoid getting more cars into the city? Could we establish park and ride places along the railroads coming into the cities, and that will have to support development both in the rural areas and in the cities.

Also, where I live, 40 kilometers from Gothenburg, maybe not everybody has to commute each day into the big city of Gothenburg. Why can’t some people stay in the towns and villages, working and telecommute from there, and maybe lunching in there, supporting the economies of towns and villages? So, again, I’m being local here, but I think that regions and cities are maybe even in the driving seat when it comes to sustainable development.

How can Europe achieve a low-carbon economy? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

82 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Toni Muñiz

    Neither poorest or richest. In Spain renewable energy is penalized. Having solar panels and being off the grid gets penalized. We are backwards. And thats thanks to politicians that later go “work” for energy companies at huge compensations.

  2. avatar
    Matej Zaggy Zagorc

    Can’t say we’re the poorest country in Europe, but we’re not exactly sh….ng money. And I can say that there’s very little being done here about it. And it’s not just the absurd bureaucracy, it’s also the low awareness of our political elites, that and corruption. I mean, when most of western countries are closing down thermal power plants because of their negative impact, WE’RE BUILDING one. Well expanding. But it’s still a mutli-billion Euro investment and after years and years, there’s absolutely nothing to show for it.

  3. avatar
    Ferenc Lázár

    Instead of spending 270billion! on false economy growth of green energy, the EU should concentrate on punishing the companies who produce millions of tones of waste with to much packaging and advertising! That huge amount of money should rather be used on social issues such poverty in East Europe and education.

  4. avatar
    Dobromir Panchev

    No. EU has enough scientists and labs to develop renewable energy technologies that can be cost efficient and competitive. And if we have the leading technologies and invest in production of affordable and long lasting renewable energy sources, we will not have to destroy our nature by drilling for gas or buy expensive gas from outside EU. The less carbon emissions, the better.

  5. avatar
    Paulo Especial


    For example, Portugal and the rest of the Southern EU Nations have enough Sun hours to justify the placement of Photovoltaic Panels on houses roofs in order to help producing electrical power from renewable sources that would lower the energy dependance and costs!

  6. avatar
    Christiane Vermoortel

    No, not enough has been done, not even in the richest regions, In fact, almost nothing has been done. Europe should since long have taken the lead in developing and applying renewable energy, but it failed…

  7. avatar
    Paul Moldovan

    Low carbon economy should be a priority for the eurppean politics. Just take a look at USA and Canada and you will understand why.

  8. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    Close down the EU parliament buildings and employ secure virtual meeting technology.

  9. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    European citizens have viable way to make choice in solar energy and contribute to the development sustainable companies can can contribute to the enviromental universe many of the measures are identified what is needed is to move from words to actions in all European areas

  10. avatar

    The first paragraph contains a huge (deliberate?) error. The EU doesn’t have a GDP. Countries that are members of the (undemocratic) EU have a GDP, the EU does not.

    So half the world’s elite is going to jet in mostly by private plane and then lecture me that I should live ‘low carbon’ yet they can pollute to their hearts content because they can afford ‘carbon credits’?

    And what are they gonna do about companies who have everything produced at de facto slave wages in China, and then transported over here to sell at extortion prices. One way to achieve low carbon is to ban production outside EU countries.

    Buy local.

  11. avatar
    Miguel Balanya

    Climate change concerns us all and especially cities, where the population’s future well-being is closely linked to a balance between the environment and urban development. 75% of energy consumed can be attributed to cities, which are, in turn, the models of settlement most vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

    Nevertheless, cities have considerable potential to implement innovative solutions to improve energy efficiency, increase sink capacity, develop structures of sustainable mobility and proper urban waste management, thus reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and increasing carbon sink capacity.

    We are still at an early stage of developing a global, effective response to this threat, but we are convinced that cities can demonstrate its effectiveness by implementing solutions that address atmospheric warming.

    Furthermore, we are presented with a unique opportunity to set ambitious future goals, to lay down guidelines for municipal administration in the medium and long term and to make our cities a committed city.

  12. avatar
    Matej Zaggy Zagorc

    Apparently there are windows that can absorb the suns rays like a solar panel. Also I’ve seen UV absorbent blocks that can be used for building roads. There’s a lot of technology already that can change a lot, but usually it’s all talk, because no one really puts it into practice because of corporate interests

  13. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    A full role! Cities are primarily day users of energy. When the sun in shining. At night they are reasonably low energy users. Except for taxis and cars that serve the party crowd.
    So, plenty of room for a role.
    They are also the nuclei from where ideas propagate!
    More room for a strong role!

  14. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    A city full of windows. Some of them they can reflect enough sunlight to melt the plastic parts of a car, as it happened in London.. Think about it….!!

  15. avatar
    La Fed Ham

    By implementing a CC cap rate for vehicle owners. 1000cc and under for singles/couples. 1800cc and under for families. Permit applications for towing vehicles

  16. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    By doing exactly the one thing the EU is very good at, destroying industries and making millions of people unemployed & poor so massively reducing their carbon footprint.


  17. avatar
    Munteanu Vlad Stefan

    i think industry and low carbon economy can work together, efficient housing, recycling, transportation and industry and more important, consumer products without planned obsolesence can do a lot for the economy and the unemployed, in my opinion europe should drive the change for this things, if we want to evolve of course

  18. avatar
    Dimitris Stamiris

    germany want greek sun ….. they need free energy because they must shut down the factory untill 2016 ….. also all the north europe use wood for heating so …. NO IT CANNOT !!!!

  19. avatar

    Europe would be stupid to pursue a low carbon ecconomy. China and India have both chosen fosil fuels to develop their nations with. Between them they have 5 times the population of the EU. So even if the EU reached 0% emmissions, 20 years fRom now there will still be more CO2 than today making our efforts worthless

  20. avatar
    Pierre Samu Tandorf

    A real central government is needed. Getting rid of current size member states and going to regional governing. We have to many political intermediate governments.

  21. avatar
    Marijus Stasiulis

    Low carbon economy? :D
    EU, especially Germany is depend on natural gas (For example”Gazprom”).
    If EU were independent, then low carbon emission energy would be possible, but until then…
    There are LOT of examples of low carbon economies.

  22. avatar
    Fernando De Rojas Parets

    Blocking the lobbies and big corporations that are controlling the innovative and alternative energy iniciatives, just exactly the opposite Spanish Goverment is doing.

  23. avatar
    Eduardo Barroso

    Connecting properly Portugal and Spain to europes main grid…we have a lot of solar + wind power that a lot of times is “wasted”… France is always against this connection…whatever

  24. avatar
    Vinko Rajic

    That is simple . EU should invest in green energy . It would be cheap and secure . EU has to connect national networks . Solar is very cheap now , Germany is doing excellent job with solar and what if they was investing in example Greece , Croatia , Italy or Spain ? Solar energy is set to become the cheapest source of electricity in many parts of the world within the next 10 years, according to a new report released by German think tank, Agora Energiewende. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-24/solar-track-becoming-cheapest-energy-source-agora-energiewende/6251322

  25. avatar
    Luigi Amoresano

    Solar, wind, geotermic, idro electric etc… And stop investing money in carbon, petrol and nuclear. Promote electric car, pedal bike.

  26. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    How can the EU? Mandating the politicians to go do it or get out of the way… as simple as that!
    In other words:
    – lead, follow, or get out of the way.
    An age old solution to the problem of political filibustering.

  27. avatar
    Buj Alex

    solar pannels, but shouldn’t they be cheaper ??? why do they cost so much … these days they just print them out …

  28. avatar
    Harald Heidegger

    Even coal, oil and gas are renewable energy sources. It’s just that it refills very slow in comparison with our consumption. So we should calculate the recycling prices of raw materials in general and trade them on the basis of these prices.

  29. avatar
    Ciobîcă Ovidiu

    Oil and gas are not renewable in a sustainable manner, and extracting hydrocarbons is not ecological either. The youth wants a green Europe, not a new eastern dessert. Green, renewable energy is the future for Europe, we must let go of corporatist influence and start building a healthy environment with economical perspectives.

  30. avatar
    Kossack Nikko

    close some of the EU offices that is a start… 2 parliaments no need. remove a the limos remove all the flights use video conferencing.. and this is in the EU.. so set yourself before you TELL US how to change YOU change

  31. avatar
    Rui Duarte

    Urban organization is one area that can benefit from planning. Should the EU do that planning? I don’t know…

  32. avatar
    Rui Duarte

    People should live close to work, thus diminuishing itineration distances and making walking and cycling feasible. Allowing people to live close to work is inimical of real estate speculation.

  33. avatar
    Rui Duarte

    In later years, traffic seems to ne organized to make it look simple on a map.WRONG! One way streets complicate traffic and make for longer itineraries, thus adding to the traffic problem. If all cars are to drive 20% or 30% longer than the shortest path, then there will be more traffic with the same cars out.

  34. avatar
    Rui Duarte

    Citizens and commuters can not be seen as «ennemies» of the city: they’re the reason WHY the city IS.

  35. avatar
    Rui Duarte

    Shopping should be speak where people live. Those huge «shopping parks» where people have to drive to should be banned. Verboten.

  36. avatar
    Shakeel Sheikh

    Every things needs recycled where the cities are responsible for managing and recycling the waste came out of the city’s and industries

  37. avatar
    Fernanda de Oliveira

    A main role. It may be easier to do it in a small scale, in every city, but regulated by central policies which have to support good measures and fight corruption, in all its forms.

  38. avatar
    Tim Rokka

    By producing things locally and not buying from China. Put a km tax on products, the farther they are shipped, the more expensive they become! Most of the crap bought from China are things we dont really need anyway

  39. avatar
    Vinko Rajic

    NO problem ! In the future over 90% of our energy is going to be solar , wind and hydro . EU should invest in green energy . It would be cheap and secure . EU has to connect national networks . Solar is very cheap now , Germany is doing excellent job with solar and what if they was investing in example Greece , Croatia , Italy or Spain ? Solar energy is set to become the cheapest source of electricity in many parts of the world within the next 10 years, according to a new report released by German think tank, Agora Energiewende. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-24/solar-track-becoming-cheapest-energy-source-agora-energiewende/6251322

  40. avatar
    Chris Panayis

    Well. You cannot force a version of technology to people. What you can do is invest time and money on developing tiny batteries with huge capacity and fast recharging, and let economics do the rest.

  41. avatar
    Joao Yohanan

    Keep on pressuring France to let the clean energy produced in abundancy in the Iberian Peninsula move to other central and eastern countries in Europe.
    Meausres like that all put together can help.

  42. avatar
    Pierre Samu Tandorf

    Get rid of the small “sleeper” towns together with the roads and the infrastructure that goes there. Small towns should be for farmers and their support. Cities are far more economic in all ways including the human footprint.

  43. avatar
    Antonio Santos

    by implementing comun policies like cars ine city centers, use green energies in poublic buildings, electric ars in public service, etc

  44. avatar
    Sandrino Cabral

    Vejam la oa decumentário com titulo
    “Cowspirecy” ups acho q é assim, explica a realidade mas o planeta nao acaba kkkkk devemos sim mas é mudar de atidudes alimentares o q é dificil lolllll

  45. avatar
    Steffen Ehrecke

    Promote electric cars, neutral energy houses and just infuse the green life style in those new engineers and managers…

  46. avatar
    Vaggelis Petousis

    One very important sector that all europeans cities have to deal with is the reduction of energy that is consumed in buildings, especially for heating and cooling. The implementation of low-energy buildings, as the european directives for all the countries-members of EU indicate, can reduce significantly the energy consumption in buildings in an amount of 60-70% and this can lead to a significant reduction of carbon emissions so Europe has to continue the efforts in energy building sector and make the buildings sustainable and low-energy.

  47. avatar

    If the world can be more peaceful, we can definitely use some of the overly excessive military budget to protect the environmental. Let’s compare our military budget and research on clean energy and environmental protection.

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