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23rd Jan 2021

MEPs ignore Commission to vote for 60% climate target

  • MEPs from the centre-right European People's Party said the 60-percent figure was 'overambitious' (Photo: European Parliament)

The European Parliament has narrowly voted in favour of a 60-percent emissions-reduction target by 2030, as part of the EU's first-ever climate law.

With a tight 26-vote majority on Wednesday (7 October), MEPs set down the more ambitious goal, going further than the 2030 emissions cut of "at least 55 percent" proposed by the European Commission last month - and rejecting adding carbon sinks like forests and grasslands in measurement criteria.

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"This is a huge success for the climate," said Green MEP Bas Eickhout, vice-chair of the parliament's environment committee.

"The German council presidency should swiftly bring the council's position to the table so that the negotiations can be concluded as soon as possible," he added.

The parliament is now bunkering down for harsh negotiations with members states, many of whom believe that the 60-percent target is far too high.

So far, only half of the EU's 27 member state governments have even clearly expressed their support for the 55-percent reduction target for 2030.

Western and northern EU countries largely back some increase in ambition, while Poland and the Czech Republic strongly oppose tougher climate policies.

However, MEP Jytte Guteland, the parliament's rapporteur on this issue, said that she is committed to fighting for what MEPs have decided, as that respects what citizens voted for in the last European elections - as well as the Paris Agreement.

"We are ready to meet the European Council, we have a clear position, and we have science on our side. I hope the German presidency can lead on this," she told EUobserver, warning that there is an opportunity to get closer to what the scientific community recommends.

These next 10 years are considered crucial to reverse some of the most-worrying trends. "Europe should take leadership and consider that it is a win-win situation for all if we work harder these years," Guteland said.

For his part, liberal MEP Pascal Canfin, head of the parliament's environment committee, warned about a possible political deadlock should unanimity be required in the council - calling on the German chancellor Angela Merkel to seize the opportunity to close trilogue negotiations before the end of the year.

Overambitious?

Meanwhile, MEPs from the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), the largest group in the parliament, are unhappy with the result, with some saying that 60 percent reduction target is "overambitious".

"We are very confident that the council will bring us back to the commission proposal," said MEP Peter Liese, who belongs to German chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party.

"It is very clear that all major economies have to do more to avoid dangerous climate change, but the 55 percent will by far be the most ambitious contribution of any major economy in the world," he added.

Last month, China pledged to peak emissions by 2030 and become carbon-neutral by 2060.

While the EPP supports the 2050 climate-neutrality target established in the climate law proposal, they said that the 60 percent reduction target would endanger many jobs in the bloc.

The majority of the centre-right MEPs are expected to abstain in the final vote on the climate law taking place late Wednesday.

Meanwhile, recent studies indicate that projects on clean energy infrastructure are expected to create twice as many jobs as fossil fuel projects - while driving down costs of the clean energy transition in the longer run.

Reluctant Poland

In addition, MEPs have supported making the EU's 2050 climate neutrality target binding for each EU country, which would force Poland to adopt the goal .

They also call for: a 2040 target, a carbon budget for member states, and the creation of European climate change council of scientists that could scrutinise climate policies in each member state, including long-term targets.

Green groups welcomed the parliament's ambition, although most environmental NGOs call for a minimum 65-percent cut in EU emissions by 2030.

"The EU Parliament has made it clear that it's the strongest player in the EU field. The problem is that most governments and the EU are still playing in the third division when it comes to climate science," said Greenpeace climate policy adviser Sebastian Mang.

The parliament's final position on the climate law will be confirmed on Thursday morning.

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