UN chief presses EU to agree tougher climate change target

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres is seen on a screen as she delivers her speech during the so-called Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin, 28 April 2020. [EPA-EFE/MICHAEL KAPPELER]

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday (19 November) urged the European Union to lead global efforts to slash planet-warming emissions by setting a new climate change target next month.

Efforts to curb climate change have gathered pace in recent months, as China, Japan and South Korea joined the EU in pledging to eventually become carbon neutral – a commitment President-elect Joe Biden says the United States will also make.

Europe looks likely to be the first large economy to translate its net zero goal into near-term commitments. The bloc’s 27 member countries aim to strike a deal next month on a new 2030 climate target.

“I urge you to continue to lead with concrete and ambitious near-term commitments,” Guterres told a videoconference on Thursday.

“It is essential that the European Union commits to reducing emissions by at least 55% by 2030,” he told the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), a think tank.

The EU Commission says cutting emissions at least 55% this decade, from 1990 levels, would put the bloc on track to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

The EU’s current 2030 target is a 40% emissions cut.

Guterres said a summit hosted by the UN and Britain on Dec. 12 was a “clear opportunity” for the EU to present the new target.

That event will take place one day after EU leaders meet to discuss the climate goal, leaving little wiggle room if they struggle to reach a deal.

Most EU countries support the 55% target, but it needs approval from all 27 states, and Poland has requested more analysis of its economic impact.

Guterres said funds from Europe’s next budget and recovery fund should help protect those affected by the low-carbon shift, adding that the proposed €1.85 trillion package is “an opportunity to invest in measures and technologies needed to achieve climate neutrality by 2050”.

He also called on EU countries to stop financing fossil fuel projects abroad and said richer EU states should stop burning coal this decade – a call to action for Germany, the EU’s biggest coal user and largest economy, which plans to quit the fuel by 2038.

“There must be no new coal, and all existing coal in the EU should be phased out by 2030 in OECD countries, and by 2040 elsewhere,” he said, warning: “we are still running behind in the race against time” to stop global warming.

Warsaw says 'further analysis needed' before EU's 2030 climate target can be agreed

Further analysis into the impact of tougher climate goals on EU member states is needed before Poland can sign up to the European Commission’s proposed 55% greenhouse gas reduction target for 2030, a senior Polish minister has said.

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