EU climate groups are accusing legislators of “surrender” after the European Commission approved a draft regulation for the continent’s Green Deal that makes its net-zero target for 2050 legally binding and sets an interim target for 2030, but contains no fixed goals for the crucial decade of action beginning now.
“The elephant in the room will continue to be the 2030 target,” since “what we do from now until 2030 will determine whether we meet the 1.5°C target,” Greenpeace climate policy advisor Sebastian Mang told Reuters earlier this week, ahead of the EC meeting Wednesday. “That is the test—what we do until 2030 is the most important.”
The draft, which must be approved by the European Parliament and the EU’s 27 member states, increases the continent’s 2030 carbon reduction target from 40% to 50 or 55%, and calls for interim milestones every five years from then on, Reuters reports. It leaves out an earlier provision that would have allowed net “removals” of greenhouse gases after the 2050 deadline. And by setting a combined, EU-wide goal, it “raises the possibility that some member states could reduce their emissions to net zero at a later date if other countries decarbonize early.”
While elected officials raised flags about a measure that would shift authority to the EU from member states, climate campaigners condemned a plan that sets no targets for the 2020s.
For the continent’s politicians, a key sticking point is that the new regulation would “impose these new targets through a delegated act, whereby a qualified majority of members of the European Parliament or member states could reject the proposal but would not have the power to propose an alternative,” Reuters explains. That’s a shift from current practice, where EU governments must unanimously agree on a shared climate target through the European Council, and any one country [Poland, we’re looking at you—Ed.] can block consensus.
EU member states may find the shift in process “hard to swallow,” the news agency says. “One thing that will absolutely not fly is the delegated act,” said German legislator Michael Bloss. “It’s dead on arrival.”
But while politicians wrangle about process, climate campaigners are concerned about the plan itself.
“‘Net zero emissions by 2050’ for the EU equals surrender. It means giving up,” #FridaysforFuture founder Greta Thunberg and 33 other youth climate activists said in an open letter Tuesday, the day before the commission vote. “We don’t just need goals for just 2030 or 2050. We, above all, need them for 2020 and every following month and year to come.”
Reuters says the new law would allow the EC to “name and shame” member states that are falling short of the target and recommend corrective action, beginning in 2023.
Climate groups and a large minority of countries are also dissatisfied with the EC’s plan to complete its review of the 2030 target in September, just two months before high-stakes negotiations open at COP 26 in Glasgow.
“Twelve EU countries—including France, Italy, and The Netherlands but not the EU’s biggest emitter, Germany—want the Commission to revise the 2030 goal in June,” Reuters says. “They say that would leave enough time for the EU to adopt the new 2030 target and use it to pressure large emitters such as China to raise their climate pledges before the summit.”
Greenpeace’s Mang agreed that “delaying discussions until September would crush the EU’s ability to play a leading role in global climate talks.”