Today, Zero Waste Europe released a new policy briefing on the waste sector under the Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) with key recommendations to ensure real GHG emission reductions in the waste sector.
The Effort Sharing Decision, which will set targets for GHG emission reduction in the waste sector for 2030, has so far considered only a portion of emissions in the waste sector, mainly those related to landfills and incinerators.
However, this assumption is misguided and incorrect, as the waste sector involves a much larger range of activities and a much larger portion of GHG emissions that unfortunately go unaccounted. In fact, the waste sectors contribution to GHG emission reduction has enormous potential when support is given to the higher tiers of the Waste hierarchy -including reduction, reuse, recycling, composting, biogas generation, sustainable consumption and production, and it can be a game-changer to the development of a low-carbon economy.
“The waste sector is a large and untapped sector with a significant potential for cost effective mitigation.”
Looking at the potential contribution of the waste sector to a low-carbon economy, recent research calculated the climate contribution from the optimal implementation of the Circular Economy Package waste targets (2014 version). Assuming the implementation of a 70% recycling, 30% of food waste reduction, and an 80% recycling of packaging waste, the EU would save 190 million/tones CO2 -eq/year, which would be the equivalent to the total annual emissions of the Netherlands.
“Unreported emissions from incineration of waste act as a loophole in the EU GHG emission accounting”
The Effort Sharing Decision 2030 framework has the potential to further reduce emissions in the waste sector, and this is an opportunity that should not be missed. In order to deliver effective GHG emission reductions, the new 2030 framework should follow some key recommendations both for the overall framework and in particular for the waste sector:
- Be aligned with the Circular Economy Package and the Waste Hierarchy, ensure support for the most environmental and cost-effective options for reducing emissions in the waste sector. This will lead to significant GHG emission reductions and reinforce the synergies between European climate, energy and waste legislation.
- Increase ambition in line with the Paris Agreement, with a long-term goal to limit temperature increase to well below 2°C, and pursue efforts for limiting it to 1.5°C. This will require the development of a solid set of guidelines and robust governance to ensure the effective implementation of sectoral policies.
- Avoid loopholes and apply the correct carbon accounting of biogenic emissions from biowaste or biomass. The reformed ESD should contribute to correct carbon accounting of bioenergy emissions and secure strict compliance with bioenergy sustainability criteria in order to guarantee real emissions savings.
- Avoid the use of surplus allowances from the EU Emission Trading System (ETS) to increase the appropriate incentives for the development of a low-carbon economy where real emissions reductions are guaranteed.
- Support Member States’ ability to meet their climate targets and provide guidance for governance and compliance, including annual reduction targets and effective corrective actions to avoid non-compliance as well as transparency mechanisms to allow effective monitoring of Member States’ action.
With the incorporation of these recommendations Effort Sharing Decision would dramatically increase its effectiveness in tackling greenhouse gas emissions, particularly the otherwise underestimated portion from the waste sector.