The European Parliament voted on Tuesday (6 October) to update the EU’s climate target for 2030, backing a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade, up from 40% currently.
Lawmakers in the EU assembly voted the proposed amendment on the 2030 target by 352 votes to 326, with 18 abstentions.
The text will now be forwarded to the EU Council of Ministers representing the EU’s 27 member states for final approval. The EU’s objective is to wrap up negotiations by the end of the year.
The Parliament’s decision on the 2030 climate target took place on Tuesday evening as part of a wider vote on a proposed European Climate Law, which seeks to enshrine into hard legislation the EU’s goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2050.
“We did it! 60% did win!” said Jytte Guteland, a Swedish MEP from the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group, who was the Parliament rapporteur on the proposed European Climate Law.
— Jytte Guteland (@JytteGuteland) October 7, 2020
“My amendment is now becoming the official position of the Parliament,” said Pascal Canfin, a French centrist MEP who chairs the assembly’s environment committee. “We are more than ever at the forefront of climate ambition!” he tweeted victoriously.
The right wing of the hemicycle was not impressed, however, saying the 60% target would be too costly to implement for Europe’s industry.
Peter Liese, a German lawmaker from the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), said the 60% goal was “overambitous” and called on EU member states to back the European Commission’s initial proposal for a 55% cut instead, saying this target was both “ambitious and realistic”.
“I regret that the majority in the European Parliament did not support the European Commission’s Climate Law proposal but voted for the overambitious 60%,” Liese said on Twitter.
“We will abstain because we sincerely dislike the 60% and think it really endangers jobs,” he said, referring to a final vote scheduled later today on the European Climate Law.
The EPP is the largest political faction in the European Parliament. It said it supports the 55% CO2 reduction target because “it is the most feasible,” according to a European Commission cost-benefit analysis.
The Commission tabled the updated 2030 target in September, saying a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions was “achievable” and “beneficial” for the EU economy.
“Going beyond 55% would endanger jobs. Let’s not be ideological,” said Agnes Evren, a French MEP from the EPP group.
Environmental campaigners, for their part, hailed the vote as a victory in the fight against climate change. “The European Parliament is to be applauded for taking a position that is far more progressive than the Commission’s 55% ‘net’ proposal,” said the WWF.
However, it added the 60% target for 2030 is still not consistent with the 1.5-2°C target of the Paris Agreement. “WWF and other NGOs have been calling for at least 65% emissions reductions by 2030, and a separate target for carbon removals from sinks.”
Crucially, lawmakers also voted in favour of proposals ensuring that each EU member state reaches climate neutrality individually by 2050. The alternative would have seen some EU countries allowed to overshoot the 2050 target provided that others meet it early.
The Parliament also rejected the Commission’s proposal to rely on carbon sinks like forests and grasslands to meet the 2030 climate target. And they equally voted down an amendment tabled by the EPP that would have included carbon-cutting projects in developing countries in the EU’s climate goals, saying the EU objective for 2030 should rely only on domestic emission cuts.
MEPs will continue voting today on other aspects of the EU Climate Law, including the creation of a ‘European Climate Change Council’ – a scientific advisory body that would be appointed to scrutinise the consistency of EU policies with the bloc’s climate neutrality objective.
The Parliament’s final position will be confirmed in a vote later on Wednesday, with final results announced on Thursday morning.
Attention is now turning to the Council of Ministers which represents the 27 EU member states. The majority there seems to be tilting in favour of a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
“We are very confident that the Council will bring us back to the ‘net’ 55% target,” said Peter Liese, the German centre-right MEP, talking to reporters on Wednesday. “And I’m sure we will go for it and that there will be a majority for it.”
According to Liese, there is a comfortable majority in favour of the 55% target among EU member states, even without the support of Germany, which keeps a low profile because it is currently holding the Council’s rotating presidency.
With Poland and other Eastern EU countries still reluctant to endorse higher climate goals, the German EU presidency is likely to seek unanimous backing from EU leaders during a summit in December, Liese said.
However, it is not legally obliged to do so and could force a deal on the 2030 target via a qualified majority vote that would put Poland in a minority.
“The most likely scenario” is that EU leaders back the 2030 goal in December so that final talks with Parliament can start in January, Liese said.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Kira Taylor]