5th Mar 2024

EU climate body sets 2040 emissions target

  • The European Commission is expected to propose an interim climate target for 2040 in the first half of 2024 (Photo: Tate Kieto)
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The EU climate advisory board, an independent scientific body that gives guidance on EU policies and climate targets, on Thursday (15 June) recommended a net emissions-reduction target of at least 90 percent by 2040 (compared to 1990 levels).

The 2040 objective is an intermediate target foreseen in the EU's flagship climate law with the aim to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

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  • The 2040 target includes emissions from international aviation and intra-EU maritime transport (Photo: European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change)

In a scientific report, the advisory body suggested keeping the EU's greenhouse gas emissions budget within a range of 11 to 14 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalents between 2030 and 2050 — in line with the commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

Experts argue that staying within these limits would require the 27-nation bloc to reduce emissions by 90 to 95 percent by 2040.

The target and the recommended budget include emissions from international aviation and intra-EU maritime transport.

But experts still argue that the starting point to achieve such a level of emission reduction is to hit the current 55 percent reduction target by 2030.

"If the EU is in a position to implement the 2030 target, then our proposed 2040 target can be can be achieved," said Ottmar Edenhofer, chair of the body.

"By making the right policy choices and embracing sustainable innovations, we can pave the way for a resilient future," he added.

To meet these ambitious targets, the advisory board report shows that the EU will have to scale up solar photovoltaics, wind power, and hydrogen energy as well as carbon capture and storage technologies.

Increasing substantially energy efficiency and the development of renewables and fuel alternatives like hydrogen, combined with the phase-out of coal electricity generation by 2030 and unabated gas-fired generation by 2040, could lead to a near fossil-free power sector by 2040 — which consequently will make the bloc less dependent on the controversial use of carbon-removal technologies.

Carbon-removal technologies have divided scientists and policymakers for years. In May, a United Nations climate body described these technologies as "unproven," especially at scale, pointing out their "unknown" environmental and social risks.

The rapid scale-up of carbon removal is required in all the assessed scenarios by the EU climate advisory board, while recognising that its deployment presents "risks and challenges" that have to be considered.

"Emission reductions are the priority, but sustainable carbon removals from both the land sector and novel technologies also require rapid scaling up, with careful management of associated risks and challenges," said Edenhofer.

Later this year, the EU body will come up with a report which will explore the implementation of carbon removals in the EU.

To achieve a fair contribution to the Paris Agreement goal, experts note that the EU should aim to reduce emissions by 95 percent by 2040, contribute to emissions reduction outside of the EU and pursue net negative emissions after 2050. Having negative emissions refers to the idea of removing more carbon from the atmosphere than emitted.

The European Commission is expected to propose an interim climate target for 2040 in the first half of 2024. But the final target will be outlined by MEPs and EU countries.

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