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24th Jan 2020

Green Deal targets pit Left against Right in parliament

  • The carbon footprint of the EU parliament itself stands at between 11,000 and 19,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year - due to the twin-location system (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Commission will present the new EU's Green Deal to MEPs on Wednesday (11 December) in an extraordinary plenary session in Brussels.

The first package of proposals will focus on the fight against climate change in areas such as transport, energy, pollution, agriculture, the circular economy and biodiversity.

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  • European Environment Agency's projection of greenhouse gas emissions per year (Photo: European Environment Agency)

Following the expected announcement, MEPs will discuss the initiative with the Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, and the executive vice-president for the Green Deal, Frans Timmermans.

The commission is also expected to include a timeline for the upcoming proposals, including a new European Climate Law and a "comprehensive plan" to increase the EU's 2030 emissions reduction target.

The current EU goal, to reduce by at least 40 percent emissions by 2030, compared to 1990, was agreed in October 2014.

However, the new Green Deal is now expected to support at least a 50 percent of emissions cut by 2030 - an initiative repeatedly emphasised by von der Leyen.

This increase will be backed only by the European People Party (EPP), while the Socialists (S&D), the liberals from Renew Europe, the Greens/EFA and the leftist group GUE/NGL believe that 50 percent emissions cut by 2030 will not be enough to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

International cooperation is essential to increase the targets for the EPP. "If China, India, South Africa and Canada also increase their emission targets, then setting ambitious targets, such as 55 percent, is possible," the group tweeted on Monday.

According to EPP chairman Manfred Weber, "with less than nine percent of global emissions, Europe's efforts to fight climate change will only be a drop of clean water in an ocean of pollution if China, India and others do not join us".

EPP plus ECR sceptical

MEPs recently declared a global "climate emergency" and agreed that the EU's climate target by 2030 should be at least 55 percent emissions cut.

According to socialist MEP César Luena, "[the Green Deal] is an ambitious communication that encompasses several sectors and actors whose action is needed to achieve the aims of climate neutrality and environmental protection".

However, the Green Deal's objective should be a 55-percent emission cut, he said.

Likewise, liberal MEP Nils Torvalds believes that "the 55 percent is key" to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

"If this [figure] is not taken seriously, we will not keep temperatures under 1.5 degrees because we will get to a tipping point," Torvalds told EUobserver.

The Greens/EFA pledge that Europe should commit to at least 65 percent of emissions cut by 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement - a figure commonly agreed among environmental NGOs, such as Greenpeace or WWF.

However, their initiative to increase EU's climate target to 65 percent by 2030 was rejected in plenary session by the majority of MEPs - mainly belonging to the Renew Europe, EPP and the Conservatives (ECR).

"Greens/EFA very much welcome the new European Commission's effort to put a Green Deal on the agenda," said the co-president of the group MEP Philippe Lamberts, who believes that the commission is not ready to present a "full-fledged agenda" in just one week.

According to the co-leader of GUE/NGL Manon Aubry, the new commission's proposals are "baby steps" to tackle climate change - GUE/NGL believes that Europe must reduce by 70 percent its emissions in 2030 to acieve climate neutrality by 2050.

"The European Green Deal is nothing but the good old 'Green Capitalism' and a pact with multinationals and the rich," she said.

Aubry called for "real" action, pushing for urgent proposals, such as the carbon border tax.

'Not credible'

Meanwhile, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), said that the new Green Deal is "not credible".

Conservative MEPs believe that "the Green Deal must deliver policies that are credible, science-based and achievable, enabling all member states to follow the same low carbon reduction pathway," said a spokesperson of the group.

"We need to ensure sufficient support for our businesses and communities who will be the most affected by the ramping up of climate ambitions and the subsequent dramatic shifts in our economies," he added.

Additionally, the parliament's environment committee has accepted a request coming from ECR to open an official parliamentary study about the environmental impact of working with the controversial two-seat parliamentary system - trips to Strasbourg once a month from Brussels.

Earlier this year, it was noted that the carbon footprint of the EU parliament stands at "between 11,000 and 19,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions" a year.

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