EU needs to ensure action meets ambition on emissions reduction targets

In December EU leaders upped the ambition by agreeing to new climate targets for 2030, but the goal risks being undermined if the European Commission scraps or weakens the law that sets national climate targets, say environmental NGOs. Now, a new campaign is asking EU leaders to make sure everybody counts in Europe’s climate efforts by keeping and strengthening national climate goals.

The EU is committed to becoming climate neutral by 2050, but to ensure it does not fall behind, it last month agreed to a net interim reduction target for 2030 of at least 55% (compared to 1990 levels). But EU heads of government said they were reassessing the effort-sharing regulation that covers 60% of the EU’s emissions and sets national reduction targets in road transport, buildings, agriculture and waste sectors. Several NGOs warned that this risks making action insufficient.

T&E’s climate manager, Ellen Valkenborgs, said: “The agreement on the increased 2030 target is welcome, but the real work is still to be done.  EU leaders signing up to an EU target is one thing, but committing to higher national efforts is another thing entirely. Without stronger national targets there is little incentive for governments to steer the take up of clean vehicles by taxing new polluting vehicles, ending subsidies for diesel and petrol company cars or pushing car manufacturers to put more clean vehicles on the market.”

If governments were no longer required to bring down emissions in road transport and buildings, those emissions would be included in the EU’s carbon market. That would mean citizens paying more for their road fuel and heating through higher carbon prices, hitting lower-income households the hardest as they will struggle to pay to upgrade their vehicles and retrofit their homes.

Valkenborgs said: “Rather than accepting that they have to increase their national efforts, some EU leaders seem to bet on a carbon pricing mechanism to make sure the target is delivered. Reaching the ‘at least’ -55% target will require a lot of effort. Without national commitment to do more, that’s a risky path: Are we willing to let fuel prices rise up to the level that ensures the target is delivered? And, if not, how are we going to ensure we get there?”

Members of the public have until 5 February to make their voice heard at EverybodyCounts.eu.