Press Release

EU leaders’ landmark climate goal could be undone by gutting of national targets

December 11, 2020

EU leaders’ agreement this morning on a more ambitious climate goal has been welcomed by Transport & Environment (T&E), but it said governments delayed a decision on the future of national targets needed to achieve it. The European Council signed off on “at least” a 55% net cut in CO2 emissions by 2030, but in a last-minute change to their statement the leaders said they were still debating “the future of the Effort Sharing Regulation”.[1] The European Commission is already considering scrapping or weakening the law that sets national climate targets and regulates 60% of EU emissions.

Ellen Valkenborgs, climate manager at T&E, said: “Leaders have upped the EU’s ambition, but are they willing to do their fair share at national level? Without stronger national targets there is little incentive for governments to tax new polluting vehicles and end subsidies for diesel and petrol company cars, measures which are as important as EU CO2 standards.”

Last month the Commission said it is considering phasing out the effort sharing law or removing key sectors from the law’s reach.[2] Currently, the effort sharing law sets binding annual emission reduction targets for each EU country to achieve in the road transport, buildings, agriculture and waste sectors.

If governments were no longer required to bring down emissions in road transport and buildings, those sectors would be included in the bloc’s carbon market. Citizens would have to pay more for their road fuel and heating through higher carbon prices. Lower-income households which cannot afford to upgrade their vehicles and retrofit their homes would be hit the hardest.

Environmental NGOs, including T&E, Greenpeace and WWF, told Commission president Ursula von der Leyen that her proposal to scrap or weaken the law would jeopardise efforts to meet a new EU climate target of -55%.

Ellen Valkenborgs said: “It’s now in EU leaders’ hands to put forward a plan that guarantees minus 55% is delivered. Strong national targets need to be part of it. Without making the effort sharing law more ambitious, governments will put the target just agreed at risk.” 


[1] Page 9, European Council conclusions, 11 December 2020.

“19. The European Council will return to the matter and adopt additional guidance in time before the Commission puts forward its proposals. The future of the Effort Sharing Regulation will be tackled on this occasion.”

[2] The Commission recently published a so-called “Inception Impact Assessment” where it outlines three options to review the current Effort Sharing Regulation. All three options under consideration point toward the inclusion of road transport in the ETS, which could repeal or seriously weaken national climate targets. The public consultation for the Inception Impact Assessment closed on 26 November.

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