The bloc’s 27 heads of state and government in the European Council are expected to push for a net 55% greenhouse gas emissions reduction target to be achieved by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. Despite an increase from the current 40%, this is not enough to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C as agreed under the Paris Agreement, the EEB warned ahead of the meeting.
Barbara Mariani, Senior Policy Officer for Climate and Energy with the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said:
“A net -55% emissions target is way below what science requires and what the European Parliament has called for. Scientific evidence clearly shows that a 65% target for 2030 is needed to avoid the worst consequences of climate breakdown and guarantee a safe future for millions of young Europeans.
Increased climate action must be Europe’s way out of the COVID19 crisis. It’s the only sustainable way to create more and better jobs while making our industry and economy more resilient. We urge EU governments to listen to science and ensure much more ambition on the EU target.”
If a political agreement on the target is reached, ministers in the Environment Council will adopt a general agreement on the Climate Law when they meet on 17 December. The Council will then be able to advance in negotiations with the European Parliament, which are expected to end in the first quarter of 2021.
Governments have already split over the target, with Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden reportedly pushing for a 55% target. Before committing to any target, Poland, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia are expected to demand more clarity on the financial instruments that the EU will provide to boost the clean energy transition. Negotiations between the Council and the Parliament on this front are also ongoing as part of separate discussions on the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility, although the governments and institutions are unlikely to reach an agreement this week.
A net 55% emissions reduction target was originally proposed by the European Commission earlier this year. EU officials also want international carbon offsets to be counted towards the final target – something NGOs dismiss as nothing short of an accounting trick. However, in October, the Parliament voted to increase the target to a more ambitious 60% and also rejected the inclusion of carbon offsets.
In an unexpected turn of events, the UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson announced last week the intention to reduce emissions across the country by 68% – the highest target ever agreed in Europe to date.
In the meantime, several studies have shown that a more ambitious 65% target is not only feasible, but also financially desirable. The latest scientific evidence in the IPCC 5th Report also indicates that an effort by the EU of at least 65% emissions reduction is needed by 2030 to avoid the worst consequences of climate breakdown.
A recent study by the EEB and CAN Europe – in cooperation with academia and grid operators – shows that should an intermediate target be increased to 65%, the EU would boost its chances to reach climate neutrality in 2040 – that’s 10 years earlier than originally planned.
The EEB has called on EU leaders to:
Other relevant discussion points the Council’s agenda this week include:
Carbon border adjustment – see EEB position
Emission Trading System (ETS) – see EEB position
Biodiversity (ahead of next year’s COP 15 in China)