Thousands of citizens demand strong national climate targets

EU lawmakers are under pressure to reverse their plans to weaken, or even abolish, national climate targets after a public backlash this month. Tens of thousands of citizens responded to a consultation over a little-known law - the Effort Sharing Regulation - that governs how much countries have to cut their carbon emissions from transport, agriculture, waste and buildings. In other words, most of the everyday lives of Europeans.

The #EverybodyCounts campaign gathered more than 45,000 public submissions, all of which told EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to support strong climate targets when the law is reviewed before summer. 

The Effort Sharing Regulation sets individual targets for each EU country to reduce carbon pollution in these sectors, which are responsible for 60% of Europe’s emissions. The need for strong targets has become even greater since the EU leaders, in December, agreed to a higher overall target for the bloc of “at least” a 55% reduction in emissions by 2030. The higher target was driven by the EU’s commitment to become climate neutral by 2050. 

But the Commission has thrown the national targets into doubt by publishing its options for revising the effort sharing law, all of which involve weakening or scrapping the goals. 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. A person living in rural Bulgaria who needs their car to get to work, for example, would end up paying almost the same as an SUV driver in Luxembourg.  

Scrapping the national targets would also mean governments are off the hook on taking national measures. They would transfer all of the responsibility onto EU policies while also being able to blame the EU for higher road fuel and heating bills. Governments would also no longer have direct incentives to provide better public transport, tax new polluting cars or set up low-emissions zones. 

The Commission will make its proposal for a revised law in June, but EU leaders have said they will provide guidance on the future of the law before then. T&E, which launched the #EverybodyCounts campaign with the support of other NGOs including Birdlife, CAN-Europe, Carbon Market Watch, EEB, WWF and SumofUs, said the EU must ensure every country does its bit to drive down emissions.

“Tens of thousands of people were moved by an apparently little-known law to tell the Commission that everyone must count in Europe’s climate fight,” said Sofie Defour, climate manager at T&E. “They understand that what’s at stake is cleaner cities and neighbourhoods, better public transport, emissions-free vehicles, and modern, efficient homes. They will be watching what EU lawmakers do next.”