Mayors urge EU to aim for net-zero emissions by 2050

The mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo (C) and WWF France head Pascal Canfin (C-R) attend with other personalities at the WWF Earth Hour event where she symbolically extinguishes the light of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, 24 March 2018. [EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON]

The mayors of ten major European cities –including Paris, London, Milan and Barcelona – have issued a joint call for the EU to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement.

The joint call by the ten mayors coincides with the launch of a public consultation this week (10-11 July) by the European Commission to update the EU’s low-carbon energy roadmap for 2050.

“We urge the European Commission to set the 1.5°C and net-zero emissions goals of the Paris Agreement as objectives of this strategy to be achieved by 2050,” the mayors write in an open letter to the EU executive, dated 9 July.

To reach that goal, emissions in Europe “must peak by 2020” and decrease until reaching carbon neutrality by mid-century, they write.

The group of ten European mayors are part of a wider coalition of 9,000 cities worldwide, which have committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and to design adaptation strategies to address the impacts of climate change – such as heatwaves, and floods.

“But considering the worrying increase of EU emissions in 2017, we recently decided to step up our ambition, and have pledged to become emissions neutral by 2050,” the mayors write in the letter.

“We are working on defining new sectoral targets for 2030, towards zero-emission transport, net-zero buildings, 100% renewable energy, and zero waste,” they add.

Parliament backs ‘net-zero’ carbon emissions by 2050

Green lawmakers have hailed a “great victory for the climate” as a proposal to bring down to zero the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted in the atmosphere by 2050 received unexpected backing from the European Parliament yesterday (17 January).

Signatories of the open letter include the mayors of major European cities such as Paris, Bonn, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Milan, London and Barcelona. Smaller cities like Arendal (Norway), Heidelberg (Germany) and Turku (Finland), also signed up.

Their joint call comes only weeks after EU legislators agreed new 2030 objectives for energy efficiency and renewables, which effectively raised the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions pledge made as part of the Paris Agreement.

Cañete: EU ‘de facto’ upping carbon reduction pledge to -45%

The EU’s top energy and climate official revealed on Wednesday (20 June) that the bloc is now set to increase its emissions reduction pledge from 40% by 2030 to 45%, after EU negotiators sealed agreements on three clean energy laws in the past fortnight.

Current objective “out of date”

The EU’s existing 2050 low-carbon economy roadmap was published in 2011, before the bloc signed up to the Paris Agreement, which commits its signatories to keep global warming “well below 2°C” and aiming for “no more than 1.5°C”.

The European Commission is now expected to present an updated version in November, just ahead of the United Nation’s annual climate conference, which this year takes place in Katowice, Poland.

“The economics of climate solutions have transformed” since 2011, said Jonathan Gaventa,  Director of E3G, a think tank. “Technologies such as solar PV and onshore wind are now already cheaper than the Commission assumed they would be in 2050,” he remarked, saying the EU’s objective of an 80% emissions cut by 2050 “is now painfully out of date”.

EU leaders take Brussels to task over 2050 low-carbon roadmap

EU leaders have urged the European Commission to come forward with a 2050 climate strategy “by the first quarter of 2019”, ending speculation over the timing of the proposal.

Growing momentum

Momentum is growing behind the objective of reaching net-zero emissions in 2050. In June, a coalition of 14 EU member states called upon the Commission to ensure that the new mid-century strategy contains both a pathway to reduce emissions towards net-zero by 2050, and a pathway to limit temperature rises to 1.5°C.

“This new strategy should be based on the latest available science, especially the next special IPCC report on 1.5°C,” which is expected in the Autumn, ahead of the COP24 in Poland, the ‘Green Growth Group’ of EU countries said in a joint statement.

14 European countries call for stronger EU climate action

A group of European countries known as the “Green Growth Group” have called on the European Commission to update the EU’s pledge at the United Nation’s next annual climate meeting in December this year, and chart a pathway consistent with a 1.5°C global warming scenario by 2050.

A few days earlier, France and Germany called on the Commission to develop an EU strategy 2050 that aims “for the long-term transformation towards carbon neutrality,” arguing this was “not only a necessity, but also an economic opportunity”.

The net-zero emissions goal is also supported by the recently agreed energy union governance regulation, which calls for Europe to achieve carbon neutrality “as early as possible”.

EU strikes early morning deal on energy governance bill

Negotiators from the European Commission, Parliament and Council struck a deal on the energy union governance regulation after an all-night session where they agreed to aim for a net-zero carbon economy “as early as possible,” with a carbon budget and national strategies for 2050.

The group of ten European mayors said they were ready to contribute and take their “fair share” of responsibility.

“Cities in Europe are big greenhouse gas emitters, and our residents are already affected by the impacts of climate change, including floods in Paris, London or Copenhagen, extreme weather events in Oslo and Stockholm and heat waves in Milan and Barcelona,” the signatories argue.

“We hope this will inspire you to maintain your ambition and give you confidence that emissions-neutrality by mid-century is achievable, not only necessary and desirable.”

Scientists see ‘clear evidence’ of climate change behind 2017 heatwave

The record heat observed across Europe this summer was made “at least ten times more likely” because of climate change, scientists have concluded in a new study released on Wednesday (27 September).


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