EU countries agree 2030 climate goals before battle with lawmakers

"For the coming decade, this means doubling our pace on climate action. All EU member states will have to step up their efforts," said Svenja Schulze, the German environment minister who chaired the EU Council meeting on Thursday. [Copyright: European Union]

European Union environment ministers agreed on Thursday (17 December) to enshrine in law a higher climate change target for 2030, setting themselves up for a battle early next year with lawmakers who want to go even further.

Following a deal between the leaders of the 27 EU member states at an all-night summit last week, environment ministers set a target of cutting net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% from 1990 levels by 2030, substantially toughening an existing 40% goal.

The European Council, the grouping of EU governments, set its stance before negotiations with the European Parliament, which has set a 60% reduction target for 2030 and wants a “carbon budget” and an independent body to monitor policies.

The Council and parliament, together with the European Commission, will hold talks in the coming weeks, possibly months, to find a consensus.

They do, at least, agree on the bloc’s climate goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

German environment minister Svenja Schulze, who chaired the ministers’ meeting, said in a statement that the new 2030 target set an example internationally and set a credible path to climate neutrality in 2050.

“For the coming decade, this means doubling our pace on climate action. All EU member states will have to step up their efforts,” she said.

Scientists say the target, proposed by the European Commission, is the minimum effort needed to give the EU a realistic shot at becoming climate neutral by 2050.

Campaigners welcomed the agreement, but also said it was not enough.

“To be in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit, the EU must cut emissions by 65% by 2030,” said the head of WWF’s climate unit Imke Lubbeke.

Reactions: Deal on EU's 2030 climate target is a big step, but won’t close the gap to 2050

EU heads of states have agreed on a 55% reduction target for greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, but the inclusion of carbon sinks and the choice of 1990 as the baseline year have led environmentalists to criticise the deal for lacking ambition.

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