EU’s Von der Leyen to pose climate challenge to US and China

Europe considers to be carbon neutral target for 2050

epa08037485 European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen attends a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the Lisbon Treaty and the start of new EU Institutional Cycle in Brussels, Belgium, 01 December 2019.  EPA/JULIEN WARNAND
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The EU will challenge the US and China on climate-change targets as the fight against global warming becomes a major issue, new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The EU is considering a target to bring emission levels down to nil by the middle of this century in its bid to lead the push for reducing greenhouse gases.

Ms Von der Leyen will pitch the plan to envoys from more than 200 nations on Monday when she travels to Madrid to take part in the opening of the UN climate talks. It will be her first event after she started her five-year term on Sunday.

“The European Union wants to be the first climate-neutral continent by 2050,” she said on Sunday in Brussels.

“Europe is leading in this topic and we know that we have to be ambitious for our planet, but also to be a front-runner.”

The climate neutrality goal is estimated to require an extra €175 billion (Dh708bn) to €290bn a year in investment for energy systems and infrastructure from 2030.

Ms Von der Leyen set the Green Deal project as a top priority for her tenure.

It would affect areas including energy production, transport and agriculture, putting Europe in sync with the objectives of the Paris agreement.

The move would also put the EU ahead of other major emitters, including China, India and Japan, which have yet to translate their voluntary Paris pledges into binding national measures.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris agreement in 2017.

The climate policy will be part of the “geopolitical commission” concept Ms Von der Leyen intends to pursue to ensure Europe’s voice is heard on the same level as China and the US.

The strategy will encourage other countries to follow by proposing options such as carbon tariffs to be imposed on nations that fall behind.

Ms Von der Leyen made calls on her first day with leaders including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

“The good news is that China says that they are aware of climate change,” Ms Von der Leyen said.

“The fact that China is introducing an emissions-trading system shows that it is also a topic that is high on the agenda there.”

More details on the Green Deal are expected on December 11, including a document outlining plans for a Just Transition Fund, designed to help the countries worst hit by emission reductions.