EU leaders set for lively debate on 2030 climate targets

Fears that stricter emissions target could have ‘social consequences’ for poorer member states

EU leaders will debate on Tuesday how they can reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

Set last month, the new objective compares to a previous target of 40 per cent and could see wealthier member states clash with poorer ones.

In July, the bloc’s executive branch, the European Commission, will detail how it intends to reach the 55 per cent target in a series of climate proposals that require the support of the EU’s 27 member states. It is part of a wider push for carbon neutrality in the EU by 2050.

The current emissions targets will need to be toughened to meet the 2030 goal.

In his letter to EU leaders, European Council President Charles Michel said Tuesday “will be a good occasion for everybody to state their key priorities and concerns in this respect”.

The EU’s Emissions Trading System, described by the Commission as the “world’s first major carbon market”, covers 45 per cent of the carbon dioxide the EU releases.

The current system sets national targets, largely based on that country’s economy, to cut emissions in sectors not covered by the EU ETS. But the Commission wants to revise and potentially expand the scope of the EU ETS, so that it covers other sectors, such as the car industry.

But, as pointed out by the Commission’s senior climate official, the EU is made up of member states with different economies.

“There will always be something member states will like or don’t like, because their starting positions are not the same,” Frans Timmermans told Euractiv news service.

“Poland for instance still depends on coal for 70 per cent of its energy use, while Austria generates more than 75 per cent of its electricity in a sustainable way. So we have to acknowledge the different starting positions.”

Mr Timmermans acknowledged the potential “social consequences” of expanding the EU ETA to sectors such as transport, which could directly affect people by increasing the price of everyday things.

“The last thing we need is energy poverty,” he said.

As a result, some countries – including Poland and the Czech Republic – are expected to ask for compensation to help them meet stricter emissions targets and press forward with green investment.

Updated: May 24, 2021 07:30 PM

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