Commission President Ursula von der Leyen touts 55 per cent emissions reduction goal for 2030 and expanded the EU Emissions Trading Scheme in inaugural State of the Union address
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has officially backed plans to increase the EU’s 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target to 55 per cent from 1990 levels, as she announced a raft of climate priorities in her maiden State of the Union address to European lawmakers this morning.
Addressing the European Parliament in Brussels, von der Leyen emphasised that pushing the EU’s existing carbon reduction target of 40 per cent to a more stretching 55 per cent by 2030 was “ambitious, achievable and beneficial for Europe”, and would enable to bloc to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement.
“I recognise that this increase from 40 to 55 is too much for some and not enough for others,” she said in her speech, designed to set out the Commission’s priorities for the year ahead. “But our impact assessment shows that our economy and industry can manage it.”
Lawmakers in European Parliament are set to vote on the long-debated climate proposal – which is believed to be supported by a dozen of the EU’s 27 member states – at a plenary session in early October.
Should the proposals secure approval from MEPs and Member States, von der Leyen said the EU would revise all its climate legislation by next summer to comply with the new 55 per cent emissions reduction target. “We will enhance emissions trading, boost renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, reform energy taxation,” she said. “But the mission of the EU Green Deal involves much more than cutting emissions. That is important, but it is about making systemic modernisation across our economy, society and industry. It’s about building a stronger world to live in.”
Von der Leyen confirmed that 37 per cent of the Commission’s proposed €750bn Covid-19 recovery package – the so-called Next Generation EU fund – would go towards EU Green Deal objectives, and that 30 per cent of the fund would be raised through green bonds.
Hydrogen production, electric charging points, fossil-free steel production and sustainable construction were all areas singled out by von der Leyen as contenders for €750bn package.
She also reiterated the commission’s plans to introduce a carbon border tax on imported goods, envisaged as a means of avoiding ‘carbon leakage’ by discouraging more carbon intensive goods from abroad flooding the EU market. She said the plans would help drive a “level playing field” as the EU attempted to drive a green recovery from the coronavirus.
“Carbon must have its price, because nature cannot pay this price anymore,” she said. “The carbon border adjustment mechanism should motivate foreign producers and EU importers to reduce their emissions while ensuring we level the playing field in a World Trade Organisation-compatible way.”
Meanwhile, von der Leyen said, the bloc would embark on “high ambition coalitions” dedicated to fighting deforestation and supporting nature preservation – including an ongoing push to create protected areas in Antarctica which she dubbed “one of the biggest acts of environmental protection in history”.
The push for higher ambition in the EU’s 2030 climate target is seen as key to encouraging other major economies – including the USA and China – to ramp up their efforts in support of the Paris Agreement ahead of next year’s crucial COP26 UN climate conference hosted by the UK in Glasgow.
As such, several green groups welcomed von der Leyen’s backing for the 55 per cent by 2030 target. Jill Duggan, executive director of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Europe urged the EU to enshrine the ‘at least 55 per cent’ target into its Paris Agreement commitment before the close of the year in order to galvanise action in other high emitting economies.
“A stronger commitment from the EU could leverage greater ambition from other countries in urgent need of raising their climate commitments,” she said. “This is especially true in light of the approaching presidential election in the United States, the G20 where Italy is presiding and where greater ambition is most urgent, and for China, soon to be home to the world’s largest carbon market.”
Helen Clarkson, chief executive of green business NGO The Climate Group, echoed Duggan’s call for the EU to swiftly adopt the target. “A stronger European climate target is critical to the EU’s global leadership role and unlocking greater ambition from other countries ahead of next year’s crucial COP26 summit,” she said. “EU member states need to reach an agreement by the end of the year to give businesses and regions the policy and investment certainty they need. This will fire the starting gun on bold, ambitious green economic recovery for the European economy.”
To deliver on the target, Clarkson stressed that the EU must mandate the phase out all petrol and diesel cars by 2035, set a goal of tripling the rate of energy efficiency renovations for existing buildings, and ensure all countries introduce plans to enable direct corporate sourcing of renewable energy.
Elsewhere, however, some green groups raised concerns that the EU Commission’s proposal would also allow emissions-removals through ‘natural solutions’ such as forestry and soil restoration to count towards the 55 per cent target, potentially undermining efforts to decarbonise sectors such as transport and industry.
Moreover, William Todts, executive director at Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment, warned that plans to include road transport in the EU ETS could undermine the “ambitious” 55 per cent target.
“The EU is finally getting real on the climate crisis,” he said. “The key to tackling transport, Europe’s number one polluter, is carbon dioxide standards that drive car and truck makers to go electric much faster whilst making charging as simple as filling up at gas stations. But the plan to put road transport in the EU carbon market is a mistake. It will undercut the national climate targets whilst jacking up fuel prices for low-income families.”
Read more: businessgreen.com