VdL's climate plan ‘risks undermining’ the more ambitious 2030 target she is fighting for

EU leaders could agree to increase the 2030 climate target next week, but any ramping up of ambition could be undermined by the European Commission's own climate roadmap, major NGOs have said. The Commission is currently exploring how to implement whatever target is finally agreed. All three options under consideration point toward the inclusion of road transport in the ETS, which could repeal or seriously weaken national climate targets and, the groups warn, risk shifting the burden onto the poor.

EU leaders could agree to increase the 2030 climate target next week, but any ramping up of ambition could be undermined by the European Commission's own climate roadmap, major NGOs have said. The Commission is currently exploring how to implement whatever target is finally agreed. All three options under consideration point toward the inclusion of road transport in the ETS, which could repeal or seriously weaken national climate targets and, the groups warn, risk shifting the burden onto the poor.

Last month the Commission said it is considering phasing out or reducing the scope of the Effort Sharing Regulation, which regulates 60% of EU emissions. 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. 

“Walking away” from binding national targets is risky and “unacceptable,” say the NGOs in a letter to President von der Leyen. “It would reduce incentives for effective national measures, undermine support for proven EU-wide policies, delay action in harder to treat sectors and risk serious impacts on poorer citizens.”

If governments were no longer held accountable for bringing 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.

Carlos Calvo Ambel, senior director for analysis at T&E, said: “Abandoning national targets would remove the incentive for governments to take national and regional action such as taxing new polluting cars, removing harmful subsidies for fossil-fuelled company cars, or setting up low-emissions zones.”

Dr Bérénice Dupeux, senior policy officer for agriculture at EEB, said: “The European Commission should not scrap the Effort Sharing Regulation but instead reinforce it by setting legally-binding targets at national level to reduce emissions from the agricultural sector. This is the only way we can ensure that national governments comply with the regulation and start the much-needed transition towards a responsible farming system that’s in line with the objectives of the European Green Deal.” 

Sam Van den plas, policy director at Carbon Market Watch, said: “Assuming that the EU carbon market alone can carry a lion's share of Europe’s climate action is dangerous. Bringing sectors such as buildings and road transport under the carbon market would risk putting the burden on citizens instead of polluting companies and would not significantly cut emissions. It’s unacceptable to propose this as an alternative to binding national climate targets.”

EU heads of state meet next Thursday to consider the Commission’s proposed new target of “at least” a 55% cut in emissions by 2030. But even this insufficient increase in climate ambition could be jeopardised by the Commission’s road map to implement it, the NGOs said. They called on von der Leyen to reconsider her proposal, and make sure that the ‘effort sharing’ law is preserved and strengthened. They said governments should call for national climate targets to be kept and strengthened before the Commission puts legislative proposals on the table next year.