EU Parliament Pushes for Tougher Emissions Reduction Targets for 2030

1 November 2018

European parliamentarians last week said that current commitments outlined in nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the UN’s Paris climate accord are insufficient to meet the landmark climate treaty’s temperature targets, and endorsed a non-binding resolution for the 28-nation bloc to ramp up its own emissions cutting targets for the year 2030. 

Lawmakers noted that current NDCs are well off the mark for the Paris Agreement goal of limiting temperature rises to two degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels, and even further from the ideal limit of 1.5 degrees. 

According to a press release from the European Parliament, lawmakers warned last week that a two degree rise would be “profound and most likely irreversible.” The statement and vote come within weeks of a landmark report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which set out the vast differences in environmental and socioeconomic impacts between the 1.5 and two degree Celsius targets. (See Bridges Weekly, 11 October 2018

The majority of EU parliamentarians agreed last week that the bloc’s climate action policies should be aligned with the Paris Agreement’s long-term objectives, voting on a non-binding resolution to this effect with 239 votes to 145, with 23 members abstaining. 

Notably, EU lawmakers also called for setting a much tougher target for slashing greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030. They have called for this emissions decrease to amount to 55 percent. The IPCC report said that slashing global emissions by 45 percent from 2010 levels within that same timeframe would be critical for ensuring that the planet stays within the 1.5 degree temperature limit. 

The resolution adopted last week “stresses the importance of an ambitious climate policy for the EU to act as a credible and reliable partner globally, of maintaining the EU’s global climate leadership, and of adherence to the Paris Agreement; welcomes the agreement by the European Parliament and the Council to raise the targets for renewables and energy efficiency to 32 percent and 32.5 percent respectively by 2030, which will result in GHG emission reductions of over 45 percent by 2030.” 

The resolution also praises the European Commission’s efforts to update the bloc’s commitments under the Paris accord to “higher ambition” versions, and also reiterated past calls by the EU’s executive arm to have ready by the end of this year “an ambitious mid-century zero emissions strategy for the EU, providing a cost-efficient pathway towards reaching the net-zero emissions goal adopted in the Paris Agreement and a net-zero carbon economy in the Union by 2050 at the latest.” 

The Parliament has previously backed the year 2050 as a target for reaching net zero emissions, though the EU institutions as a whole have not yet endorsed that objective.

The bloc currently has in place a target of slashing emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030, and has designed a suite of climate and energy policies around meeting and surpassing that objective, getting closer to 45 percent, including through its Clean Energy Package. Efforts envisioned under the Clean Energy Package tackle topics ranging from energy efficiency to tougher, binding renewable energy targets. (See Bridges Weekly, 21 June 2018

Supporting international climate action efforts further afield, including through climate finance contributions for developing economies, would also be key, they said, so that the EU does not lose its competitive edge over countries with less stringent climate policies. 

"Europe should step up its climate action, waiting longer will only increase costs. More carbon cuts in the next years will boost green investments and reduce the burden of fuel costs on the economy,” said Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, an EU parliamentarian from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) who introduced the resolution for formal consideration. 

Preparing for Katowice

Additionally, the European Parliament has said that member states should prepare plans for reducing GHG emissions by 2020 in time for the next Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). That event, due to be held in Katowice, Poland, in December, marks a pivotal moment in the international climate action calendar, with parties facing a deadline to finish negotiating a Paris “rulebook” for implementing the accord. 

Preparations for that event are well underway, despite concerns that UN negotiators will have a hefty workload when they arrive in Poland just a few weeks from now, given limited progress seen at earlier meetings this year in Bonn, Germany, and Bangkok, Thailand. (See Bridges Weekly, 13 September 2018

The resolution passed by EU parliamentarians last week was in the framework of discussions for how the European Union should prepare itself for the Katowice conference.

EU lawmakers last week also highlighted the importance of climate finance, including designing the bloc’s budgetary commitments around the needs of the Paris Agreement, particularly as the EU works to finalise the terms of its budget for the post-2020 period. The European Commission issued in May its proposed budget for that timeframe, including a significant boost in the bloc’s climate-related spending. The “multi-annual financial framework,” as the EU calls its budget, would run from 2021 to 2027. 

The Commission has called for devoting 25 percent of the bloc’s spending towards climate action. By comparison, parliamentarians called for this proportion to amount to 30 percent. 

“The EU is a global leader for environmental protection and climate action; where we spend our money should reflect this,” said EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella in early June, outlining the Commission’s proposals on climate spending in the budget. 

Negotiations among the EU institutions as to the final shape and composition of the EU budget are still ongoing and are expected to continue through next year. The European Parliament is due to hold elections next May, while the mandate of the current European Commission wraps up in 2019 as well. 

ICTSD reporting.

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