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EU commits to 60% carbon reduction by 2030, up from 40% prior plan

22 November 2020 Kevin Adler

With the European Union (EU) already on track to meet its 2030 climate target, lawmakers for the 27-nation bloc voted on 6 October to raise the continent's planned carbon cuts from 40% to 60% below 1990 levels within a decade.

Because individual member countries must still weigh in on a final bill to be negotiated, it remains uncertain where the final 2030 emission target will land. Only a handful of wealthy Nordic and western countries have so far supported the European Parliament's ambitious climate goal, which will be legally binding and represent the EU's updated target under the Paris Climate Treaty.

"This is a historic moment and a historic law," Jytte Guteland, a Swedish lawmaker who led the push for the stricter emission target, said during a press conference after the 352-326 vote. She called the legislation a "game changer."

"With the challenge we have with global heating…and the risks we have in front of us, it is very important that we now have such as strong message from the European Parliament," she said.

Commenting on Twitter on the same day, Pascal Canfin, a French member of the European Parliament who sponsored the amendment for the higher reduction commitment, wrote, "We are more than ever at the forefront of climate ambition!"

Between 1990 and 2018, EU-wide emissions dropped 25%, although achievements vary greatly between nations, according to the region's latest greenhouse gas inventory. Germany and the United Kingdom accounted for more than 50% of the total net reduction, offsetting double-digit increases by smaller economies like Cyprus and Spain.

Hard sell

The new target will be an especially hard sell with eastern European nations whose economies still depend on coal and heavy industry. For example, fossil-dependent Poland and the manufacturing-heavy Czech Republic will likely try to water down such an ambitious plan.

In the EU, the parliament is elected by and represents citizens, while the Council of the European Union represents member governments; both institutions must agree on a proposal before it becomes law. The EU submits a joint target under the Paris accord, rather than setting individual goals for each country.

In September, the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, proposed to raise the 2030 Paris emissions reduction target from the current 40% to 55%, a move observers say is necessary to help the union meet its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Need for further reductions

The vote on the new proposal came just days after the EU's earth observation program, Copernicus, announced that the world had just experienced the hottest September on record, with scientists attributing the 0.05 degree rise from 2019 to rising emissions from human activities.

Signatories to the 2015 Paris climate accord are required to formally submit updated emission reduction plans in 2020, and experts have long said bigger cuts are needed for the pact to achieve its goal of keeping the global temperature rise to "well below" 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

The independent platform Climate Tracker rates the EU's current 40% reduction target as "insufficient" for meeting the Paris goal. It says already-implemented measures by member states will result in a 37% drop by 2030, but notes that EU renewable energy and energy efficiency goals would achieve an emission reduction of as much as 48% a decade from now.

"This indicates that the EU is very close to reaching—or even exceeding—its current, inadequate emissions reduction goal for 2030," the Climate Tracker analysis says. "Significant strengthening of this goal is thus not only feasible, but also necessary to fulfil the Paris agreement's requirement of reflecting 'the highest possible ambition.'"

Original article by Karen Rives, 'The Energy Daily,' 13 October 2020.

Posted 22 November 2020 by Kevin Adler, Editor, Climate & Sustainability Group, IHS Markit

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