EU leaders meeting in Brussels have agreed on a European Commission proposal for a new 2030 EU target to cut carbon emissions by at least 55 per cent compared to 1990 levels.
In September, the European Commission put forward a proposal to reach at least 55 percent net emission cuts by 2030 in its Climate Target Plan.
This was seen by campaigners as a much-needed milestone to allow the bloc to become climate neutral by 2050 at the latest.
The agreement reached at the summit late on Thursday, up from the original 40 percent target, comes just before the fifth anniversary of the Paris Climate Change Agreement this Saturday.
Several groups, though, said the new target still falls short of the scale of emission reduction needed for the EU to fairly contribute to limiting temperature increase to 1.5°C.
The new target will next go into negotiation with the European Parliament over the final text of a climate law.
“[This] puts us on a clear path towards climate neutrality in 2050” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
In a tweet, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the new target as a “great way to celebrate the first anniversary of our EU Green Deal.”
She said the summit “has endorsed our ambitious proposal for a new EU climate target and Europe will reduce emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030.”
She added, “It puts us on a clear path towards climate neutrality in 2050.”
Reaction to the deal was swift with the Parliament’s Socialist Group leader Iratxe Garcia describing it as a “landmark.”
The Spanish MEP said, “The decision to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent is what we have been requesting. It is in line with the Paris Agreement and necessary to achieve climate neutrality.”
She warned, “However, it is still not enough, and we should now move from reduction targets to net targets of CO2 emissions.”
Ska Keller, co-chair of the European Parliament’s Greens/EFA group gave a guarded welcome to the announcement from the summit saying, "Increasing the emissions reduction target to at least 55 percent net is a significant step forward compared to the current 40 percent, but will not be enough to limit global warming to 1.5°C.”
"The decision to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent is what we have been requesting. It is in line with the Paris Agreement and necessary to achieve climate neutrality. However, it is still not enough, and we should now move from reduction targets to net targets of CO2 emissions” European Parliament Socialist Group leader Iratxe Garcia
"The approval of this target in the Council has come at a dear cost with the definition of gas as 'transitional' energy. European governments are opening the door to billions in investments from the Green Deal to go to fossil fuels.”
"What matters now are the negotiations around a strong European Climate Law. The European Parliament is calling for a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030, an end to all fossil fuel subsidies and climate neutrality in 2050 in all EU member states, rather than a net target.
Elsewhere, Colin Roche, climate justice coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe, said, “EU leaders may pat themselves on the back for finally agreeing a new climate target, but this is still a far cry from the victory the climate needs. Our leaders must go further to deliver Europe’s fair share of global action to cut carbon and live up to the agreement they made in Paris five years ago.”
“Meanwhile if this new target is to be meaningful, planned new EU infrastructure spending must cut out all fossil fuels now.”
Wendel Trio, Director of CAN Europe was more critical, however, and said, “Reaching an agreement on the new climate target is a vital and necessary step to help limit the escalating climate crisis. At the upcoming Paris Agreement anniversary, the EU now needs to ensure that it convinces other major emitters to foster their climate ambition for 2030 ahead of COP26 next year.”
“But given the profound existential threat we are facing, EU leaders cannot allow overly high emissions to continue for another decade and will need to go beyond the agreed target.”
Denise Godinho, Communications Director of the European Environmental Bureau, said, “We argue that this is not enough to avoid the worst consequences of climate breakdown.”
“European business supports the goal of reaching climate neutrality by around mid-century and the Green Deal. The EU must now focus on how to deliver our climate ambitions without undermining the economic recovery, and policy makers must consider that the new climate target for 2030 will be implemented during an unprecedented crisis" Business Europe Director General Markus Beyrer
Commenting further, Business Europe Director General Markus Beyrer noted, “European business supports the goal of reaching climate neutrality by around mid-century and the Green Deal.
“The EU must now focus on how to deliver our climate ambitions without undermining the economic recovery, and policy makers must consider that the new climate target for 2030 will be implemented during an unprecedented crisis.
“We urgently need a strong EU industrial strategy to underpin the Green Deal. And the European Commission must take into account competitiveness requirements when shaping the different climate policy proposals to be presented in 2021.”
Parliament’s president David Sassoli welcomed the decision and added, “I am convinced that the Green Deal represents the right path to a sustainable future, and working with international partners is an imperative if we are all to emerge from this crisis stronger.”
Sassoli said, “More and more countries are announcing ambitious targets, and what was unthinkable yesterday is becoming the norm today. Like the EU, Japan, Canada, the UK and many others have announced their intention of becoming climate-neutral by 2050.”
He added, “I also welcome the pledge made by US President-elect Joe Biden to re-join the Paris Agreement; in this area as well, we can renew our partnership with the USA.”