16 September 2020
The European Commission has proposed increasing its greenhouse gas emissions reduction target to “at least” 55 per cent by 2030.
The announcement was made by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen today as part of her State of the Union speech which outlined how the bloc will rebuild in a post-pandemic world.
Previously, the EU had committed to reducing emissions by 40 per cent by 2030.
Reducing emissions by at least 55 per cent over the next decade, according to Ms von der Leyen, will put the EU on track to becoming “the first climate-neutral continent” by 2050.
“I recognise that this increase from 40 to 55 (per cent) is too much for some, and not enough for others. But our impact assessment clearly shows that our economy and industry can manage this,” she said.
In order to meet the target, Ms von der Leyen noted the European Green Deal will be a “blueprint to make that transformation” and that every sector will have to play its part.
If other countries were to follow the EU’s lead, she added, “the world will be able to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius”.
Highlighting that the bloc’s emissions reduction of 25 per cent since 1990 happened alongside a 60 per cent rate of economic growth, Ms. von der Leyen stressed that meeting the target is possible, saying, “We can do it. We have already shown we can do it.”
Bringing the EU along her mapped out path to climate neutrality also comes with a “solemn promise to leave no one behind in this transformation” and a Just Transition Fund will “support the regions that have a bigger and more costly change to make”, she said.
Reacting to Ms. von der Leyen’s speech, Friends of the Earth Europe Director Jagoda Munic stressed that she was right in expressing a need to reset the direction where Europe is headed, “but this must be to a different destination, an altogether greener, fairer, better Europe”.
The recovery policies “rely too much on corporate techno-fixes like hydrogen and digital farming, while plundering raw materials beyond ecological limits” and instead must embrace community solutions, Ms. Munic said.
Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe noted that the 55 per cent figure is a “substantial increase” but urged the Commission to consider the target as “a baselince since science requires more emission cuts”.
The Commission is also set to include land and forest removals in the calculation of this 55 per cent target according to a draft seen by the organisation, and will allow for big emitters to avoid the necessary level of reduction.
Using the same baseline as the current 40 per cent target, emission reductions under the new proposal would reach “at best 53 per cent”, CAN Europe said, which is only halfway in the 50 to 55 per cent range that the Commission has assessed.
ENVI Committee’s recommendation
The figure announced today is lower than the recommendation brought forward by the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, who endorsed a 60 per cent target just last week.
However, in order to keep global temperatures in line with the 1.5 C warming goal of the Paris Agreement emissions would need to reduced “by at least 65 per cent”.
This was the figure initially proposed by Jytte Guteland in April, an MEP from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, who argued that climate targets must align with “what scientists said is necessary”.
The 65 per cent target is also aligned with the equity principles within the Paris Agreement that are based on how much warming a state has already produced as a result of fossil-fuelled industrialization.