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25th Jul 2021

EU leaders agree on 55% climate target for 2030

  • 'Europe is the leader in the fight against climate change,' declared the president of the European Council Charles Michel after leaders finally reached a compromise (Photo: European Union)

EU leaders finally agreed early Friday (11 December) to increase the bloc's emission-reduction target to 55 percent by 2030 - paving the way to update the bloc's contribution under the UN Paris climate agreement before the end-of-year deadline.

"Europe is the leader in the fight against climate change," declared the president of the European Council Charles Michel after leaders finally reached a compromise.

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The negotiations lasted the entire night, since a binding commitment to a more ambitious goal is a sore issue for Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, who came to Brussels asking for "more clarity" and guarantees.

In September, the European Commission announced an increase on the existing 2030 emission-reduction target, from 40-percent to 55-percent (on 1990 levels), in order to achieve the EU's 2050 climate-neutrality target.

The emissions-reduction goal includes for the first time so-called 'carbon sinks' (provided by soils and trees), turning the figure into a "net" emissions target.

By including land and forest removals, the commission thus changes the 1990 baseline by which the emission reductions are measured - a move that could undermine accountability efforts.

This would mean a cut in 'real' emissions of 50.5 percent to 52.8 percent.

Member states were unable to agree on the new climate target in October - when concerns over the economic impact of the new climate target mounted, especially among central and eastern countries who called for "further analysis" at national level.

After through-the-night negotiations, finally ending at around 7:30 AM, EU leaders agreed that "the new 2030 target needs to be achieved in a way that takes account of member states' different starting points and specific national circumstances," but also "in the most cost-effective manner possible".

Member states will be able to choose "their [own] energy mix and most appropriate technologies, including transitional technologies such as gas" - an explicit request from coal-dependent central European countries, such as the Czech Republic and Poland.

EU leaders also called on the European Commission to make extra cash available from the bloc's internal carbon market, the Emission Trading System (ETS), to reduce energy poverty - a key demand from countries like Poland, which also wanted assurances that their share of auctioned carbon allowances will not shrink with the new climate target.

Warsaw and Budapest also made sure member states have the last word on climate legislation, with key decisions to be taken by unanimity in the EU Council.

This was one of the deal-breakers during the summit, together with the potential review of how member states reduce emissions in certain sectors, such as agriculture or waste, and the commitment to address "imbalances" under the Modernisation Fund, an EU official said.

The fund supports 10 lower-income member states to green their energy systems.

The compromise on the new climate target came after member states reached a common position on linking the rule of law to the €1.8 trillion seven-year budget and recovery fund, of which one-third of the money will be invested in climate-related projects.

'Don't be fooled'

The compromise on the new target allows EU environment ministers to adopt a general agreement on Europe's first-ever climate law next week, paving the way for the European Council and the European Parliament to start trialogues and reach an agreement "swiftly", according to the conclusions.

The European Parliament in fact recently called for a higher, 60-percent, emission-cut in the next decade.

"It is important not to be fooled into thinking that a net target of 55 percent is sufficient," MEP Jytte Guteland, the parliament's key negotiator on the climate law, said on Friday.

MEPs also want to make the EU's 2050 climate-neutrality target binding for each EU country, forcing Poland to adopt the goal they did not sign up to one year ago, arguing that they needed "more time" to implement the objective.

The concept of individual state-targets has been previously backed by Denmark, Luxembourg and Sweden, among others.

The agreement on the updated 2030 target came in the run-up to the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement, when countries are required to increase their climate efforts to limit global heating to "well below two degrees".

The new climate target will be presented this weekend when global leaders meet virtually for the Climate Ambition Summit co-hosted by the UK, the UN and France.

The UK recently announced that it aims to cut its emission by 68 percent in the next decade.

EU leaders called particularly on G20 countries to come forward with "their own ambitions targets and policies" ahead of the UN COP26 climate talks, postponed to 2021 due to Covid-19.

G20 countries are responsible for about 80 percent of all global emissions, of which about 10 percent are attributable to the EU.

Despite international commitments, average temperatures have already risen over one degree Celsius.

EU's new 2030 climate target slammed on 'accounting trick'

The EU's updated 2030 climate-target plan, due to be presented by the European Commission, have been criticised for including land and forest carbon sinks in its emissions-reduction goal. Green groups describe it as an "accounting trick".

EU's 2030 climate target left for December summit

EU leaders agreed on Thursday evening to increase the EU's climate ambition for the next decade "collectively". Roughly half of EU countries support a 55-percent emission-reduction target, but now aim to adopt a specific target in December.

EU agency: 'Europe will not meet 2030 climate goals'

The European Environmental Agency's latest report predicts that Europe will not achieve its 2030 climate and energy targets "without urgent action during the next 10 years". As a result, the social systems of production and consumption must be transformed.

EU sets out plan to mitigate 'unavoidable' climate events

Extreme climate-related events cost the EU's economy €12bn annually. Brussels aims to reduce the so-called climate protection gap - the difference between insurance protection and total losses - which is widening due to more frequent extreme weather events.

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