Dhe European Union agreed on a more ambitious climate target for 2030 just in time for American President Joe Biden’s climate summit on Thursday. Negotiators from the European Parliament and EU states agreed on Wednesday night to reduce CO2 emissions by 55 percent compared to 1990 levels. So far, the EU had promised a 40 percent reduction. Twenty years later, in 2050, the EU then wants to be climate neutral, i.e. not emit more CO2 than can be extracted from the atmosphere in a natural or technical way.
The responsible Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, spoke of a milestone after a total of 15 hours of negotiations: “We have agreed to write climate neutrality in a binding law and thus set the roadmap for climate policy for the next 30 years.”
The European Parliament wanted tougher goals
The CDU MEP Peter Liese spoke of a “historic agreement”. “Contrary to other claims, the 55 percent target is very ambitious when you consider that we reduced emissions by 25 percent from 1990 to 2020 and will now have to reduce them by another 30 percent in just nine years,” he said. The EU is also much more ambitious than the Americans. The most ambitious goal that is being discussed there is 50 percent compared to 2005. Compared to the EU base year 1990 that is just 43 percent. The Greens were very critical. “With the result of the climate law, the Green Deal turns out to be a PR project with flowery words and few concrete measures,” said MEP Michael Bloss. The climate target for 2030 does not meet the requirements of the Paris Climate Agreement.
The Greens’ criticism does not only refer to the level of the 2030 target, which at 55 percent lags behind the European Parliament’s demand for 60 percent. They also criticize the fact that, unlike in the past, the 55 percent target should also include the positive effects of CO2 sinks such as forests on the climate. That benefits with 225 megatons (million tons). The EU states actually have to “only” reduce emissions by 52.8 percent.
However, the compromise stipulates that the share of CO2 sinks remains limited to 225 megatons. So if states plant more forests, they will not be able to reduce their efforts to reduce CO2 in return. In the negotiations, the Commission also promised to present proposals for expanding the CO2 sinks to 300 megatons by 2030 in order to do more to protect the climate. But that remains too vague, criticizes Bloss.
The negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, the body of states, dragged on for months. The European Parliament wanted to go further than the EU states in many areas, but was ultimately unable to prevail on most points. The Eastern European countries in particular had blocked themselves. The fact that the goal of climate neutrality by 2050 only applies to the EU as a whole, not to every individual EU state. No legal entitlement to climate protection is introduced. The end of fossil subsidies is also not set.
Parliament was able to enforce that there should be a CO2 budget for the period 2030 to 2050. So not only will there be targets for certain years, but at the same time it will also be recorded how much CO2 the EU is allowed to emit in total in this period in order to achieve the climate target of the Paris Agreement, the increase in the earth’s temperature to 1.5 degrees compared to the pre-industrial one Time limit. On the basis of this budget, the commission should also propose an interim target for 2040 by mid-2024. Contrary to what the European Parliament called for, the budget should be only one of several factors for setting this goal.
Agreement on the climate law was also urgent because the European Commission wants to present concrete proposals as early as June on how CO2 emissions are to be further reduced in the coming years. It is also about the role that EU emissions trading should play in the future. The Commission is considering extending this to the building sector and transport. So far it only applies to industrial companies and energy suppliers. The compromise is subject to change because it has yet to be officially adopted by both the European Parliament and the EU states. But that should be a matter of form.