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Partially dried up reservoir in Vilanova de Sau in Spain (in April 2023)

Photo: Emilio Morenatti/dpa

In the fight against the climate crisis, the EU Commission wants to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Europe by 2040. This Tuesday in Strasbourg, the Brussels authority will present its recommendation for a climate target for 2040. According to a draft, the Commission is proposing to cut emissions by at least 90 percent by this year compared to 1990.

So far, the EU has set goals of reducing CO₂ emissions by 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 and becoming climate neutral by 2050. The “Fit for 55” legislative package under the umbrella of the so-called Green Deal is intended to ensure this. The strategy includes measures in various areas such as energy, transport, industry and agriculture. There is currently no interim target for 2040.

Three target options were examined

As can be seen from the draft, three target options for 2040 were examined. The consequences of reducing emissions by up to 80 percent compared to 1990 and by 85 to 90 percent were also analyzed. However, a reduction of 90 to 95 percent is the only option that does not endanger the EU's obligations under the Paris Agreement, the draft said.

"Option 3 offers the EU the strongest climate action, which is needed more than ever to avoid irreversible tipping points with unknown and potentially catastrophic impacts on human society and ecosystems," the authors wrote. The longer climate action is delayed, the higher the human and economic costs of climate change would be.

In order to achieve the goal, according to the draft, the share of renewable energies should, among other things, continue to grow and the use of solid fossil fuels should be gradually reduced. According to the Commission's recommendations, emissions should also be reduced in agriculture.

First positive reactions

At the end of January, Germany and ten other countries called on the EU Commission to propose an ambitious climate target for 2040. “We can only convince others to get involved if we do the work at home,” it said in a joint letter.

In June, the Scientific Advisory Board voted to reduce EU emissions by 90 to 95 percent by 2040 compared to 1990. This reduction is crucial to mitigating climate risks. In their latest report in the middle of the month, the scientists wrote that more needed to be done to achieve the EU's climate goals. They did recognize the potential of the Fit for 55 package. However, additional measures are essential.

Linda Kalcher from the Brussels think tank Strategic Perspectives sees great potential in the Commission's proposal to "set the course for Europe as a business location." The new EU climate protection target will enable better planning: “Around 80 percent less fossil energy should be used by 2040. This not only protects against sudden price increases or delivery failures, it also ensures that investments stay in Europe.«

The CDU MEP Peter Liese said: "A 90 percent target for 2040 is really ambitious." His Green counterpart Michael Bloss, on the other hand, wants a 95 percent reduction so that the EU can play a credible pioneering role in climate protection.

Silvia Pastorelli, Greenpeace's EU climate chief, said EU countries were among the world's biggest historical polluters. "It is painfully obvious that without an end to coal, oil and gas, the EU will not even achieve its own goals - the EU Commission must recognize that." Instead, it looks like "we will get a goal that “Much smaller emissions reductions are hidden behind questionable accounting based on magic wands to make pollution disappear.” Other environmentalists are also calling for a more ambitious target than the 90 percent reduction.

Not a legislative proposal, but a recommendation

The Commission's stated target is not a legislative proposal, but rather a recommendation for a target for 2040 as the next step on the way to climate neutrality in accordance with the requirements of the EU climate law. This proposal should be presented within six months of the first global stocktaking of the Paris Agreement, which took place at the COP28 climate change conference in Dubai in December. After the European elections, it will be the task of the next EU Commission to present a legislative proposal to set the climate target for 2040. The elections will take place at the beginning of June. The EU environment ministers are likely to deal with the Commission's recommendation in the coming months.

The Commission also wants to present a strategy for industrial carbon management this Tuesday. It is also about the controversial CO₂ storage.