A pan-European project aims to turn polluting CO2 into a useable resource

EU tightening greenhouse emission cuts to 50 per cent of 1990 levels

Image credit: Arnold Paul

The EU is consulting on tougher climate rules that will set a more stringent target of cutting at least 50 per cent of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions when compared to 1990 levels.

With plans to make the whole continent climate-neutral by 2050, the revision of the current 40 per cent target is an attempt to carve “a more gradual pathway” towards that goal, the European Commision (EC) said.

The new target, to be proposed in September, will guide the EC revisions of a suite of policies even as it also focuses on nurturing the post-coronavirus economic recovery.

In the consultation, the EC admitted that the world is currently not on track to achieve the Paris Agreement objective of limiting temperature change below 2°C, “let alone 1.5°C”, it said.

However, the EC said that “ambitious energy efficiency and renewable energy legislation” which has already been undertaken is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond the existing target - by around 45 per cent by 2030.

The Commission also wants revisions of regulations governing the carbon market, as well as renewable energy and energy efficiency by June 2021 as part of its 'Green Deal' vision to decarbonise the bloc’s economy by 2050.

The EU has exceeded its aim to reduce emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, (based on 1990 levels). It achieved a 23 per cent reduction by 2018, despite economic growth of 61 per cent over the same period.

Much of the savings were attained through changes to power plants and where the continent derives its electricity from. Emissions from international aviation have continued to increase, rising 19 per cent between 2013-2018.

In the UK, the transport sector is already the largest emitter and is failing to decarbonise as quickly as other sectors. It is typically harder to lower transport emissions due to the highly decentralised nature of passenger cars and other road vehicles in comparison to power grids.

The EU executive has said the coronavirus pandemic will not affect its carbon aims and suggested that it will heed calls from campaigners and investors that economic recovery measures should also accelerate the low-carbon transition.

Poland’s government, meanwhile, has warned that the virus fallout will make climate targets tougher to achieve, while the Czech Republic has called on Brussels to drop its Green Deal.

In November 2019, EU lawmakers declared a ‘climate emergency’ as a way to push the EC to more proactively fight emissions.

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