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Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided

Climate change is one of our greatest environmental, social and economic threats. The warming of the climate system is unequivocal, says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Observations show increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level. It is very likely that most of the warming can be attributed to the emissions of greenhouse gases by human activities.

Over the past 150 years, mean temperature has increased by almost 0.8 °C globally and by about 1 °C in Europe. Without global action to limit emissions, the IPCC expects that global temperatures may increase further by 1.8 to 4.0 °C by 2100. This means that temperature increase since pre-industrial times would exceed 2 °C. Beyond this threshold irreversible and possibly catastrophic changes become far more likely.

To halt climate change, global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced significantly, and policies to do so must be put in place and fully implemented.

The main sources of man-made greenhouse gases are:

  • burning of fossil fuels in electricity generation, transport, industry and households;
  • agriculture and land use changes like deforestation;
  • land filling of waste;
  • use of industrial fluorinated gases.

The present indicator CSI 010 presents total and sectoral trends of greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union and other EEA member countries, and can be used to assess progress in reducing emissions in the EU and the individual Member States.


In 2011, EU-27 greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 3.3 % compared to 2010. This was mainly due to the milder winter of 2011 in many countries, leading to lower heating demand from the residential and commercial sectors. In general, emissions from natural gas combustion fell, while emissions resulting from solid fuel consumption increased due to higher coal consumption in 2011 compared to 2010 levels.

Numerous governments are now calling for very significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in the longer

term (some of the order of 50% by 2050, and others on a carbon intensity basis), but action will be

ineffective in the absence of participation of numerous countries that are major greenhouse gas emitters.


Policies will vary with countries’ geographical and economic imperatives. However, there are common

observations and principles that should be recognised in formulating energy and environmental policies

throughout the world:

  • Affordable energy is essential to the economic and social goals of developing countries and to continued

growth and energy security in developed countries.

  • Reconciling this with the need to limit CO2 emissions from energy production and use is a major longterm

challenge for the energy sector that requires a far-sighted, technologically focused approach.

  • In the interim, improving the efficiency of existing and new coal-fired power plants is a cost-effective way

to limit the growth of CO2 emissions.

  • The installation of best available commercial technology should be a focus of planners for the significant

amount of new coal-fired capacity that must be built in the near term. Where practical, it is highly

desirable that these power units are designed to enable cost-effective carbon-capture retrofitting when that

technology becomes available for commercial application.


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