The European Parliament is gearing up for tough talks on the EU’s climate target for 2030, with a 65% emissions cut now firmly on the table.
Jytte Guteland, a Swedish social democrat who is leading talks on the EU’s new climate law on behalf of MEPs, announced on Tuesday that she will back a 65% emissions target for 2030.
“I think it is important in these times to submit proposals that are in line with what scientists said it is necessary,” Guteland told Swedish radio.
The 65% target proposed by Guteland is a higher benchmark than the 50-55% emission cuts promised by the European Commission as part of its Green Deal initiative.
According to the UN emissions gap report, a 65% emission cut by 2030 would bring the EU’s climate action in line with the objective of the Paris Agreement to limit global heating to 1.5°C.
Environmental activists applauded the move. “The big lesson of the COVID-19 crisis is that governments need to listen to the science and act accordingly,” said Sebastian Mang, EU climate policy adviser at Greenpeace.
“Ms Guteland realises that the EU needs to take the same approach to the climate emergency,” Mang said, warning that the trillions that will be spent on the coronavirus recovery “will make or break EU climate action”.
Even though Guteland’s position will add to the discussion, the 65% target proposal is unlikely to garner support from a majority in the European Parliament.
The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the largest political group in the EU assembly, said it was ready to back a 50% emission target for 2030 but would not go further without a thorough cost-benefit analysis and comparable commitments from other big polluters such as the US and China.
“The EPP Group wants to set CO2 emission targets to at least 50% by 2030 with an option to increase this by 55% if certain conditions are met,” said Esther de Lange, a Dutch MEP who is vice-chair of the EPP.
“In order to move beyond a 50% target to 55%, we need a prior impact assessment and international cooperation,” she said in a statement published in March, when the Commission tabled its landmark climate law.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel follows the same line, saying on Tuesday that she “welcomes” the Commission’s plans for a 50-55% target by 2030.
The European Commission heeded those calls by promising a thorough impact assessment by September this year.
The right-wing European Conservative and Reformists (ECR) as well as the far-right are also opposed to a 65% target, while the social democrats (S&D) and far-left (GUE/NGL) are broadly supportive.
A key player in shaping the Parliament’s final position will be the centrist Renew Europe faction, backed by French President Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche party.
Pascal Canfin, a French centrist MEP, is chairman of the Parliament’s influential environment committee. And he believes a 55% target will win the day.
“We know there is just one majority in Parliament, for a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions,” Canfin told EURACTIV in an interview earlier in March.
“There is no majority below because that would not be science-based. And there is no majority beyond because going above 55% would be too fast and too disruptive for the industrial sectors concerned, for example in countries like Poland.
“So I expect the Parliament to be very clear on the 55% target when the Climate Law comes to a vote in the Parliament’s environment committee.”
Guteland’s report will be discussed and amended in the Parliament’s environment committee in June, with a full plenary vote expected in the autumn.
The final agreement on the 2030 target will be reached in negotiations between the Parliament – led by Guteland –, EU member states and the Commission.
[Edited by Sam Morgan]