EU settles on 55% CO2 reduction in binding climate agreement
On Tuesday night, the European Parliament and the 27 member states reached at last an agreement on a binding CO2 reduction of 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 as a necessary milestone to reach climate neutrality by 2050. Initially, the Parliament wanted 60%, the member states 50%. But scientists say it should be 65% to stay below 1,5 degrees of climate warming.
At the same time, the Commission comes with the list of sustainable investments for the future, the so-called ‘EU Taxonomy’, part of the EU’s overall efforts to reach the objectives of the Green Deal.
Backing down at 55%
The negotiators of the EU Parliament tried all night to convince the member states to force up the ambition to 60% of CO2 reduction by 2030, but they came away empty-handed.
In December, the heads of state moved heaven and earth for countries like Poland, which depend heavily on coal, to accept a 55% reduction the Commission proposed. Just a month earlier, the EU Parliament had voted a 60% goal by a nose. Environmentalist parties claimed victory with 352 votes against 326.
Eventually, the Parliament had to back down on Tuesday night, but still, chief negotiators call it a historic day. Green parties are disappointed, saying one should better listen to the scientists who advocate a 65% CO2 reduction at least.
Effect of carbon sinks
The defenders of the agreement say the new directives the Commission is to issue in June on carbon capturing and storage (CCS) and so-called carbon sinks will actually reduce 57% in practice.
A carbon sink is any reservoir, natural or otherwise, that accumulates and stores carbon for an indefinite period and thereby lowers the concentration of CO2 from the atmosphere. Forests and the oceans are the most prominent ones.
But environmentalists argue on the contrary that the effect of ‘carbon sinks’ by reforestation or greening of agriculture is used as a ‘bookkeeping trick’ for not having to force sticker emission rules in transport, for instance. Without counting it, the Greens say the effective reduction will be 52,7% instead of 55%.
Council of fifteen scientists
Anyway, the compromise will have to be confirmed by the entire Parliament and the 27 States, with the latter having to embed the regulation in local legislation. To ensure that the EU lives up to its promises, the Commission will have to present in 2023 interim CO2 reduction standards for 2040.
An independent council of fifteen scientists will have to examine the whole process on the way, and in case the binding targets aren’t met, adjustments will be necessary.