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EU Raises Climate Ambition and Proposes Drastic Reductions in Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2030.

Sunday, 08 November 2020
On the 17th of September, EU officially entered a new era on its long journey towards achieving the goal of climate neutrality by 2050: The European Commission presented its plan to reduce EU greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, instead of the existing 40%. 

Some days later, in early October, the European Parliament set the bar even higher in a vote on the EU climate law, with the MEPs calling for emissions to be reduced by 60% by 2030, adding that, national targets shall be increased in a cost-efficient and fair way. They also called on the Commission to carry out an impact study and set an interim target for 2040, to ensure that the EU is on track to meet the 2050 target.

Τhe new target set by the Commission is based on an Impact Assessment of the social, economic and environmental impacts and, as Commission underscores to its Communication on “Stepping up Europe’s 2030 climate ambition”, it underlines the EU's continued global leadership, ahead of the next UN climate conference (COP26). 

The Communication is the kick-off of a negotiation period that will last until next June, when the Commission will submit its proposal to revise the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and extend it to shipping and air transport. In addition, a new regulatory framework for land use and forest protection, new energy efficiency standards, new incentives for the use of renewable energy sources and new standards for car exhaust emissions will be proposed.

An increase of the 2030 EU target for greenhouse gas emission reductions was first announced in President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen's political guidelines in July 2019, in line with the Paris Agreement objective to keep the global temperature increase to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to keep it to 1.5°C. “With the new target to cut EU greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, we will lead the way to a cleaner planet and a green recovery. Europe will emerge stronger from the coronavirus pandemic by investing in a resource-efficient circular economy, promoting innovation in clean technology and creating green jobs” underscored amongst others Mrs. von der Leyen, commenting on the new goal. 

The EU has already achieved a 25% reduction in emissions during the period 1990-2019, with its GDP growing by 62%, and with existing policies the reduction of emissions will reach 60% by 2050 (while the goal is to zero ). The raise of its ambition from the current level to at least 55% within the next ten years is a significant increase of its Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement and sets the stage for the upcoming UN climate negotiations in 2021.
 
Given that energy is responsible for 75% of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU, the new target for their overall reduction requires a significant increase in investment. According to the Commission, Member States will have to spend € 350 billion more per year during the period 2021-30 compared to the period 2011-20.

The achievement of the new goal presupposes that by 2030, coal consumption would be reduced by more than 70% compared to 2015, and oil and gas by more than 30% and 25%, respectively. Renewable energy instead would see its share increase. By 2030, it would reach 38% to 40% of gross final consumption. 
Referring to the increasing importance of renewable sources within the new era, Kadri Simson, Commissioner for Energy,  underlined at her statement during the presentation of Commission’s new plan:  “Based on existing policies and the plans of Member States, we are on course to surpass our current 40% target for 2030. This shows that being more ambitious is not only necessary, but also realistic. The energy system will be at the heart of this effort. We will build on the success story of the European renewables sector, look at all the tools at our disposal to increase our energy efficiency and lay a firm foundation for a greener Europe.”

Background and next steps 

The European Commission in March 2020 proposed a European climate law that would make it a legal requirement for the EU to become climate-neutral by 2050. This follows the December 2019 European Council decision to endorse the 2050 climate-neutrality objective. The proposal is a central part of the European Green Deal unveiled by Commission President von der Leyen in a plenary debate in December. Parliament has long advocated for an ambitious climate change policy and declared a climate emergency on 29 November 2019.

The European Council discussed in October 2020 the Commission’s communication on ‘Stepping up Europe’s 2030 climate ambition’, including the proposed emissions reduction target of at least 55% by 2030, and the actions required to achieve that ambition. It will return to the issue at its December meeting to agree a new emissions reduction target for 2030 and the submission of the EU’s updated nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change before the end of the year. Leaders called upon all other parties to also submit an updated NDC and underlined the importance of strong coordinated action through active European climate diplomacy.

Sources: European Commission, European Parliament, European Council
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