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23rd May 2022

EU's 2030 climate target left for December summit

  • EU leaders called on the Commission to assess how the recently proposed 55-percent emissions-reduction target by 2030 would affect each country individually (Photo: Europea Council)

EU leaders at their summit on Thursday evening (15 October) did not adopt a specific target for emissions-reductions by 2030, but agreed to "return to the issue" at the next European summit taking place in December.

Last month, the European Commission announced an increase in 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.

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However, member states urged the commission to assess "the specific situation" of each country and how the updated 2030 target would affect them individually.

The heads of government did not adopt a specific 2030 target on Thursday. Instead, the summit merely agreed to "increase its ambition for the coming decade and update its climate and energy policy framework".

Nearly half of EU countries have previously said they support increasing the exiting target from 40 to 55 percent by 2030, compared to 1990, but some fossil-fuel-dependent countries like Poland have expressed concerns about different starting positions and possibly deepening inequalities.

However, according to the summit conclusions, the updated 2030 emissions-cutting target should be delivered "collectively" at the EU level.

Ahead of the summit, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden signed a joint declaration supporting the commission proposal.

"Our new long-term budget and recovery package with the climate mainstreaming target of at least 30 percent and the 'do no harm' principle ensure the EU financial contribution to achieving our increased 2030 climate target in a socially-inclusive manner, enabling a just transition," they said.

Some countries, like Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Luxembourg, have previously expressed their support for even a higher target of 60 percent or 65 percent.

Separately, the Czech Republic and Germany have also expressed their support for a more ambitious target.

Dissent

"We have no problem with the [55 percent] target if it is an average for the whole EU," said Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš, pointing out that the different energy mix of each member states should be taken into consideration.

Babis also represented Poland at the summit since its prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki was self-isolating after being in contact with a person who tested positive for Covid-19.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, for her part, also endorsed the commission proposal, saying that "it is important to reach an agreement among member states by December".

Under the Paris agreement, countries are required to set goals for their climate efforts every five years. New goals are expected from all the signatories that have ratified the climate deal.

Once EU leaders reach an agreement, they will still have to find a compromise with the European Parliament, which recently called for a 60-percent emission-cut in the next decade.

Meanwhile, green groups warned that the commission proposal itself is not aligned with the Paris Agreement, calling for at least 65-percent emissions cut during the next decade to limit global heating to 1.5°C.

Environmental NGOs have also criticised the commission proposal as an "accounting trick" since it refers to 55-percent in net-emissions reduction - which would be translated into 50.5-52.8 percent in real emission cuts.

Moreover, EU ministers for environment will also discuss later this month the details of the updated target, which will appear in the EU's first-ever climate law.

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The European Parliament voted in favour of a 60-percent emissions-reduction target by 2030 in the first-ever EU climate law. MEPs also supported an interim 2040 target, and making the EU's 2050 climate-neutrality target binding for each member state.

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A new report indicates that the EU's plan to reduce the bloc's greenhouse emissions by 55 percent by 2030 is "technically and economically feasible" - with a reform of EU carbon market and "adequate safeguards" for low-income EU countries.

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