The EU finally agrees on its 2030 GHG emission reduction target

On April 21st, negotiations between the EU Parliament and Member States came to a conclusion as they managed to agree on a target for greenhouse gas emissions reductions by 2030.

This was one of the main sticking points of the Climate Law discussions, one of the main acts presented with the EU Green Deal, that will enshrine the common goal of climate neutrality in EU law. The agreed-upon target is to reduce collectively GHG emissions by “at least 55%” by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels), a significant increase over the 40% cut that was planned until now, and this Climate Law will make this binding for the EU.

This agreement has been long in the making as it saw strong opposition between different factions in Parliament and the between EU institutions. Indeed, the EU Parliament had previously agreed on a 60% target, higher that the Commission’s proposal of 55%, which vice-President Frans Timmermans deemed “bloody hard to do”. The Parliament also did not manage to make this target mandatory at the national level as it will apply to the EU average.

However, while the emissions reduction target did not meet the Parliament’s expectations, other concessions were made in its favour. The deal caps the contribution of carbon removals from agriculture and forestry, and the negotiators agreed to set up a European Scientific Advisory Board that will be entrusted to independently advise EU policymakers on the adequacy of their climate policies. It will be composed of 15 members from across Europe and have the European Environment Agency as a secretariat. It will also make use of the carbon budget concept to track the EU’s progress towards a timely climate-neutrality.

This carbon budget should also influence the establishment of the next GHG targets for 2040. The 2050 climate-neutrality target remains a collective EU-wide target, meaning that Member States do not have to individually be climate-neutral by 2050. After this date, the EU is aspiring to attain negative emissions.

While Ursula von der Leyen and Frans Timmermans, respectively Commission President and Vice-President, praised the agreement, Parliamentarians were more split. Centre-right MEP Peter Liese found the deal to be very ambitious and supported the initial 55% target, but others disagreed, such as MEP Michael Bloss from the Greens who tweeted “We fought hard but achieved little” in response to the conclusion of the negotiations.

Meanwhile MEP Pascal Canfin, Chair of the Environment committee (from centrist group Renew), was more nuanced as he still deemed the agreement rather ambitious while reminding that “Parliament was ready to go further”. Indeed, EuropeOn has been involved in Canfin’s campaign for a Green Recovery and earlier in April co-signed the MEP’s letter to the EU’s American counterparts to call for matching climate action on both sides of the Atlantic.

Indeed, the agreement on the 21 of April came after a long night of negotiations and just in time for US President Joe Biden’s virtual climate summit. This allowed the EU to attend with fresh commonly agreed 2030 target for emission reductions, as the US have announced theirs, aiming to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels).

The EU agreement on the 2030 targets will now be submitted to the Council and Parliament for official approval.