EU reaches late night deal backing plan to cut emissions 55 per cent by 2030, as reports suggests President Biden will approve goal to halve US emissions by end of the decade
With just hours to go until the start of President Biden’s high profile Earth Day meeting of world leaders, two of the world’s largest economies have finalised plans for ambitious new decarbonisation targets for 2030 that promise to provide a major boost to global efforts to tackle the climate crisis.
Following marathon 14 hour talks, negotiators from the European Parliament, European Commission, and member states finalised a deal on the bloc’s sweeping new Climate Law just after 5am this morning. The news came as reports suggested the White House is poised to sign off on a new target to halve emissions against 2005 levels by 2030.
The EU deal formalises the bloc’s goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and become the world’s first ‘carbon neutral continent’. It also finalises emissions targets for 2030 that had been the subject of intense debate between those member states seeking more ambitious climate action and those concerned about the impact on coal-reliant economies in Eastern Europe.
Negotiators eventually reached an agreement to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by “at least 55 per cent” by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
The target represents a compromise after the European Parliament previously voted in favour of a 60 per cent cut by the end of the cap.
A number of Member States insisted on a less ambitious target, citing fears over the impact on carbon intensive industries. However, as part of the deal they agreed to a cap on the contribution land use based carbon offset projects could make to the new targets. The European Commission also agreed to undertake a review of whether the target could be strengthened to a 57 per cent if emissions accounting rules are tweaked to allow a greater contribution from natural carbon sinks.
And in a further concession to MEPs who have consistently called for more ambitious climate goals across the bloc, diplomats backed proposals for a new European Scientific Advisory Board to advise policymakers on how EU policies can align with the overarching net zero emissions goal.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hailed the agreement as a major breakthrough for the bloc’s climate strategy ahead of tomorrow’s high profile White House summit, which will see leaders of all the world’s major economies meet virtually to discuss their national climate plans ahead of the COP26 Climate Summit this autumn.
“Our political commitment to becoming the first climate neutral continent by 2050 is now also a legal commitment,” von der Leyen said in a statement. “The Climate Law sets the EU on a green path for a generation. It is our binding pledge to our children and grandchildren.”
Writing on Twitter, Frans Timmermans, the Commission’s executive vice-president in charge of the European Green Deal, hailed the agreement as a “good day for people and planet”.
We have a deal on the Climate Law!
— Frans Timmermans (@TimmermansEU) April 21, 2021
“This is a landmark moment for the EU and a strong signal to the world: our commitment to #ClimateneutralEU will guide our policies the next 30 years,” he wrote. “And positive news to share before #EarthDay”.
However, a number of MEPs gave the deal a more cautious welcome, describing it as just a first step to climate neutrality and voicing fears that the inclusion of carbon sinks in the EU emissions accounts could provide a loophole that allows carbon intensive industries to keep polluting.
The breakthrough came as the Washington Post reported that Biden administration is poised to announce a target to cut emissions by at least 50 per cent by 2030 against 2005 levels.
If adopted, the target would amount to a significant strengthening of the national climate action plan – or Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in the UN jargon – which was submitted by the Obama administration in 2015 and aimed for a 26 to 28 per cent cut in emissions against 2005 levels by 2025.
The 50 per cent target would also be towards the upper end of the range of targets the Biden administration was reportedly considering ahead of tomorrow’s Earth Day summit. The Washington Post’s sources told the newspaper that officials are still weighing a target range, which could go above 50 per cent on its upper end.
The US emissions goal is expected to be the centrepiece of a raft of new climate goals to be showcased or announced tomorrow. In addition to the EU’s new target, the UK will highlight its new carbon budget to slash emission 78 per cent against 1990 levels by 2035, while Japan is also expected to announce a strengthened emissions goal for 2030.
However, concerns remain over the extent to which Biden and his allies will be able to leverage more ambitious decarbonisation commitments from a number of carbon intensive economies that have been reluctant to come forward with more ambitious emissions goals ahead of COP26.