EU plans stricter climate goals to ‘raise ambition’

Brussels – The European Commission is set to propose an increase in EU climate goals, after the United States withdrew from the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change last year.

By 2030, the European Union has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent, compared to the 1990 levels. This figure should be increased to 45 per cent, according to the bloc's executive.

Hopes for a higher target

"My intention is to bring this question forward to member states later this year," EU Climate Action Commissioner Miguel Canete told dpa.

He hopes that EU capitals will agree on a higher target by October, ahead of global talks in December on the implementation of the 2015 Paris climate deal, taking place in the Polish city of Katowice.

"In any case, the EU is in a strong position to participate in the political discussions around raising ambition at the forthcoming COP24 in Katowice," Canete said.

Most countries around the world signed the Paris deal, which aims to keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees – or ideally 1.5 degrees – compared to pre-industrial levels. But the US – the world's largest economy – withdrew last year under President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, an unusually hot summer in Europe and other parts of the northern hemisphere has revived concerns about the effects of climate change.

Ambitious energy aims

According to Canete's calculations, the EU's energy consumption targets already place the bloc on track to achieve the higher targets on greenhouse gas emissions.

The bloc agreed earlier this year that, by 2030, energy efficiency should increase by 32.5 per cent, while renewable energy should make up 32 per cent of the overall mix.

"Based on our modelling we would de facto arrive to a 45 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU," Canete said.

Environmentalists argue that this goal is still too low to cap global temperature increases at 2 per cent. This would require EU greenhouse gas emissions to fall by 55 per cent, according to Klaus Roehrig of the Climate Action Network.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has also urged the EU to aim for a 55 per cent target by 2030.

EU can't "compensate for US exit"

However, the influential Federation of German Industries (BDI) criticized any move to further tighten the EU's emissions target, arguing that the bloc should not act unilaterally.

"It is wrong to pretend that Europe could compensate for the US exit from the Paris climate deal," said Holger Loesch of the BDI, noting that the US accounts for 16 per cent of global emissions, compared to the EU's 10 per cent and China's share of more than 27 per cent.

"Effective and affordable climate protection will only succeed through genuine international cooperation," Loesch added.

Meanwhile, German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said Europe's ability to exceed its emissions target was an "encouraging signal" for international climate policies. "This shows that we are on the right path," she added.