EU ministers agreed on Friday (6 March) to send their formal promise on how much they will cut greenhouse gas emissions to the United Nations ahead of climate change talks starting in November.
The European Union is the first bloc to agree its position before the talks in Paris aimed at seeking a new worldwide deal on global warming. It has called on other big polluters also to deliver early pledges to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
French Energy Minister Segolene Royal said Europe was leading by example.
“A very important step was taken today,” she told reporters after a meeting of EU climate and energy ministers in Brussels. “This is a decisive, historic stage.”
She had said on Thursday agreement had to be reached by March 20 at the latest.
The EU’s official contribution will be a target of a 40% cut in emissions by 2030, compared to levels emitted in 1990. The target has to be achieved domestically rather than through offsets that allow member states to buy into carbon-cutting schemes outside Europe.
EU diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, say the 40% target will have to be shared among member states and debate over how to achieve that is unlikely to be completed before the Paris talks.
One option is to share the effort based on a member state’s GDP per capita.
But the emissions cuts beyond 2020 agreed by environment ministers fell far short of Europe’s fair share of the action needed to avoid dangerous climate change, said Friends of the Earth Europe.
Susann Scherbarth, climate justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said, “There is a huge gap between what climate science and equity tells us Europe needs to do and the agreement of the ministers today. It is frustrating to hear our governments describe their climate pledges as ambitious when they are failing to move us away from fossil fuels fast enough.”
Jason Anderson, head of EU Climate and Energy Policy at WWF European Policy Office, said, “The EU needs to get its act together. Its leaders may be used to settling for weak compromises because of internal battles, but the outside world will show little understanding – they rightly expect Europe to stand on the high ground it claims at every UN conference, and not just to point up to it from below.”