European legislators adopted a legally-binding target this week to decrease greenhouse gas emissions 60% by 2030, more ambitious than the net reduction of “at least 55%” the European Commission had proposed, even as a new study found the continent’s fossil companies’ climate plans falling short of the targets in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The legislated emission cuts will require agreement between the European parliament and individual EU countries, which remain split on a target that is to be finalized by the end of the year, Reuters reports. The EU’s 2030 goal currently stands at 40%.
On Wednesday, Swedish Social Democratic MEP Jytte Guteland, identified by Reuters as the “lead lawmaker” on the target, said the parliament had taken “a big step closer” to meeting the Paris goals by adopting the 60% threshold. Denmark and Finland both said they would support deeper emission cuts, and about half of the EU’s member nations have come out in favour of the “at least 55%” goal. But “Danish climate minister Dan Jørgensen acknowledged it would be difficult to gather enough support for even the 55% target,” the news agency writes.
The Czech Republic is already on record opposing 55%, and Poland, with its heavy dependency on coal, is asking for more detailed economic analysis before deciding.
Yet “experts say a 55% cut by 2030 is the minimum needed to steer the EU towards becoming climate neutral by 2050, putting EU emissions on a path that, if adopted globally, would cap global warming at safe levels,” Reuters states. “A 60% target is unlikely to secure support from EU countries,” but “backing a more ambitious aim could make it harder for countries to water down the target in the ensuing negotiations.”
“We have decided on really ambitious instruments, and we will not easily give that away,” said Greens MEP Michael Bloss of Germany.
On the same day as the European parliament vote, Reuters reported on new analysis showing that none of the continent’s biggest fossil companies have aligned their carbon reduction targets with the Paris goals. “The study by the Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI), which unites investors with US$22 trillion in holdings, comes as shares of European energy companies including BP and Royal Dutch Shell have struggled amid concerns over their ability to successfully shift away from oil and gas,” the news agency writes.
The assessment of 59 big oil, gas, and coal companies found seven—Glencore, Anglo American, Shell, Repsol, Total, Eni, and Equinor—with plans to match their performance to governments’ long-term carbon reduction targets. But those targets add up to 3.2°C average global warming, TPI found, far above the 1.5°C threshold laid out two years ago this week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “No company was set to meet the United Nations-backed Paris Agreement’s long-term goal of limiting global warming to ‘well below’ 2.0°C above pre-industrial levels by reducing carbon emissions to net-zero,” Reuters says.
“BP, whose CEO Bernard Looney plans to grow the company’s renewables business 20-fold by the end of the decade, is the least aligned among the European companies, not even meeting the government pledges level,” the news agency writes, citing the report. BP was one of several fossils that said they disagreed with TPI’s methodology.
“We’re very happy that some oil and gas companies are seeing these fundamental changes and trying to respond,” said Bill Hartnett, stewardship director of ESG Investment with TPI member Aberdeen Standard Investments. “Some (of the fossils) might have made bigger statements so far than the others, and the important thing is the direction of travel. But none of them are making net-zero yet.”