By Hayd Mohamed
The European Council (comprising the heads of state or government for the 27 member states of the European Union) met in October for the EU Summit and reviewed the European Commission’s target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by the year 2030 (compared with 1990). This is an increase of 15% from the previously agreed-upon target of 40%. The European Commission pushed for an increase in the target primarily as a way to meet their goal of European carbon neutrality by 2050 .
According to the Commission, the proposed 2030 emissions target would be in line with the Paris Agreement objective to keep the global temperature increase well below 2°C, and continue efforts to maintain an increase of 1.5°C at the absolute highest. Despite the proposed increase in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the newly proposed emissions target still fails to meet the Paris Agreement objectives. In order to be consistently in line with the 1.5-2°C Paris Agreement, emissions will need to be cut by at least 65% .
The European Commission aims to meet this target through a series of strategies and initiatives, one of which being national long-term strategies to be implemented by EU member states. These long-term strategies are likely to involve increased investment for realistic technological solutions that support the economic transformation needed for greater sustainable development .
Whether or not this proposed increased emissions target will go ahead is still to be determined. There are some countries that have indicated support for an even greater target of a 60% or 65% cut in greenhouse gas emissions, while others have expressed concern about their ability to contribute to this increased collective emissions reduction .
A few weeks ago, the European parliament voted in favour of a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions . However, a specific target is yet to be set. On December 10th-11th 2020, the European Council will vote on the EU’s emission targets for 2030 .
Implementing the target means different things for each member state, and as a result, the member states urged the European Commission to reassess the targets proposed to each country with emphasis placed on the specific situation of each member state, and forecast how the updated proposal would, in turn, affect them.
The outcome of the vote last week was disappointingly not in favour of a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, European leaders settled for an EU-wide goal of cutting emissions by 55% by 2030 . It is important to note that this is only a net reduction (including carbon removals) and the actual reduction in emissions will be around 50-53% . The EU council president Charles Michel stated after the vote that ‘Europe is the leader in the fight against climate change’. However, while this new emissions goal is a significant improvement from the original 40% reduction, it reduces the possibility of the EU to meet the objectives set out in the Paris Agreement and limiting global heating to well below 2°C, preferably 1.5°C. To achieve this, an absolute reduction of 65% until 2030 would have been necessary.