11 December 2020

EU leaders agree to reduce emissions after all-night talks

11 December 2020

European Union leaders reached a hard-fought deal Friday to cut the bloc’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by the end of the decade compared with 1990 levels, avoiding a hugely embarrassing deadlock ahead of a UN climate meeting this weekend.

Following night-long discussions at their two-day summit in Brussels, the 27 member states approved the EU executive commission’s proposal to toughen the bloc’s intermediate target on the way to climate neutrality by mid-century, after a group of reluctant, coal-reliant countries finally agreed to support the improved goal.

“Europe is the leader in the fight against climate change,” tweeted EU Council president Charles Michel as daylight broke over the EU capital city.

“We decided to cut our greenhouse gas emissions of at least 55% by 2030.”

Five years after the Paris agreement, the EU wants to be a leader in the fight against global warming.

Yet the bloc’s heads of states and governments were unable to agree on the new target the last time they met in October, mainly because of financial concerns by eastern nations about how to fund and handle the green transition.

But the long-awaited deal on a massive long-term budget and coronavirus recovery clinched on Thursday by EU leaders swung the momentum.

Large amounts of the record-high 1.82 trillion euro (£1.66 trillion) package are set to pour into programmes and investments designed to help the member states, regions and sectors particularly affected by the green transition, which are in need of a deep economic and social transformation.

EU leaders have agreed that 30% of the package should be used to support the transition.

Another delay in revising the EU’s current 40% emission cuts objective for 2030 would have been particularly embarrassing before the virtual Climate Ambition Summit marking five years since the Paris deal, and leaders worked to the wire to seal a deal.

The event on Saturday will be co-hosted by the UK with the United Nations and France.

Poland, which last year did not commit to the EU’s 2050 climate neutrality goal, and other eastern countries, including the Czech Republic and Hungary, largely depend on coal for their energy needs.

They considered it unfair that all member states should be submitted to the same ambition without considering their respective energy mixes.

To win their approval, member states agreed that the new target should be delivered collectively.

According to the Belgian prime minister’s office, “leaders agreed that the cuts will be first achieved in sectors and countries where there is still plenty of room for improvement”.

In addition, the European Commission will take into account specific national situations when drawing up the measures. A progress report will be submitted to the European Council in the spring.

The accord also left the door open to member states to use gas or nuclear power as they drop fossil fuels.

World leaders agreed five years ago in Paris to keep the global warming increase to below 2C and ideally no more than 1.5C by the end of the century.

Under the Paris accord, countries are required to submit updated climate targets by the end of this year.

Greenpeace and other environmental groups have said the improved EU target is insufficient to properly tackle climate change.

“To increase the chances of limiting global heating to 1.5C and avoid the worst effects of climate breakdown, Greenpeace is calling for at least a 65% cut in EU emissions from polluting sectors by 2030,” the NGO said.

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