EU Commission lays out plan to become climate neutral by 2030

The Commission's Berlaymont building in Brussels is lit in green to mark the European Green Deal, 14 July 2021. [European Union, 2021. Source: EC - Audiovisual Service]

The European Commission unveiled plans on Tuesday (5 April) to cut its own greenhouse gas emissions by 60% before the end of the decade, saying the remainder will be compensated with carbon removals.

The plan puts the onus on cutting emissions from transport and office buildings, said Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s vice-president in charge of the Green Deal.

“By nature of who we are, we travel a lot,” Timmermans said as he presented the plan on Tuesday, adding that the Commission was looking at ways to reduce the amount of travelling where possible while “making sure we travel by more sustainable ways.”

When it comes to its own fleet of cars and vans, “the transition to a fleet of zero-emission vehicles is planned to be completed by 2027 at the latest,” the EU executive said in a communication describing its plans.

For commuting and getting around in Brussels and Luxembourg, public transport and green mobility will be prioritised, with a fleet of Commission-owned bikes and an increased number of charging stations for electric vehicles. Parking space will be reduced by at least 35%.

Emissions linked to work-related travel, which represented 28% of emissions in 2019, will be cut in half by 2025, “by organising smart and intelligent missions and greener modes of travel,” the EU executive said.

When it comes to buildings, the idea is to use them less and better.

“By reducing the amount of buildings we use, by also changing the energy mix of the buildings, by using the money we save to make the buildings we have more energy efficient and hopefully, climate neutral at some point,” Timmermans said.

“We can really change our ways,” he stressed.

Last year, the EU executive already announced it would halve the number of buildings it manages in Brussels – from 50 to 25 by 2030.

The communication adopted on Tuesday said the remaining office buildings will be used more flexibly, with dynamic collaborative working spaces and increased teleworking, which has already become commonplace since the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020.

In buildings themselves, on-site energy productions will be developed using solar photovoltaic panels and solar water heating.

Carbon removals

Altogether, these measures are expected to reduce the Commission’s carbon emissions by 60% before the end of the decade.

For the remaining 40%, the EU executive said it will rely on carbon removals “to neutralise unavoidable emissions and achieve net zero GHG emissions by 2030”.

The Commission recognised that “this will have a financial cost” but it pledged that it “will only rely on carbon removals to the smallest extent possible”.

Carbon removals involve withdrawing CO2 from the atmosphere, either via natural means like growing trees or by using technological solutions like direct air capture (DAC), where giant fans suck carbon dioxide directly from the air.

Under the European Green Deal, the EU executive has committed to planting at least three billion additional trees in the EU by 2030.

The Commission is currently developing a certification system for carbon removals, which is expected to be presented towards the end of the year.

In order to prioritise emission-cutting activities, the EU executive said it “does not intend to start procuring offset credits for carbon removal activities before 2030”.

Carbon removals: the secret to reaching net zero emissions

Europe needs to drastically cut its emissions to reach net zero emissions by mid-century, but there is another tool in the battle against global warming that could help: carbon removals.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 893858.





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