European Council endorses target of “at least” 55 per emissions reduction

11 December 2020 

The European Council has approved a binding emissions reduction target of “at least” 55 per cent over the coming decade for the bloc. 

The Council, comprised of member state leaders, met over the past two days on an array of topics, including climate change.

They committed to “raising our climate ambition in a manner that will spur sustainable economic growth, create jobs, deliver health and environmental benefits”. 

The target will also be met in “the most cost-effective manner possible”, according to the Council’s statement. 

Trade policy and agreements must also be “consistent” with climate ambitions, they added. 

“Great way to celebrate the first anniversary of our European Green Deal,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted. 

“It puts us on a clear path towards climate neutrality in 2050,” she said. 

Target “falls short” 

While noting that the 55 per cent target was a “significant step” upwards from the previous 40 per cent target for 2030, Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe said it “falls short of the scale of emissions reductions” needed for limiting global temperatures to 1.5 C. 

The organisation argued that the new pledge does “not bode well with the latest available science” and United Nations’ equity principles requiring the EU to commit to a reduction of at least 65 per cent by the end of the decade. 

Additionally, making the new 2030 target a “net” one will rely heavily on carbon sinks from land-use and forestry, which will amount to less decarbonisation, CAN Europe said. 

Bringing EU legislation in line with increased ambition and Paris Agreement goals are now, “in the hands of the European Parliament and the Council,” according to CAN European Director Wendel Trio. 

“We regret that leaders have agreed to set up emission reduction objectives against nature protection objectives and call upon the Commission to ensure all future legislation keeps a strict divide between these two processes,” he added. 

Greenpeace warned that the “at least” 55 per cent reduction target exposed a “reluctance by governments to follow the science and tackle the root causes of the climate emergency.”

“Without further action, the EU’s new climate target will allow oil and gas companies to survive, it won’t transform how we get around and how we produce our food fast enough to beat the climate emergency, leaving those who are most vulnerable and least responsible to pay for the damage,” Greenpeace EU climate policy adviser Sebastian Mang said. 

Von der Leyen announced the 55 per cent target in her September State of the Union address, and noted at the time that it would be “too much for some, and not enough for others”. 

The European Parliament’s Environment Committee endorsed a 60 per cent target a week prior to her address, a figure lower than the initial 65 per cent target proposed by MEP Jytte Guteland in April. 

About the Author

Kayle Crosson